Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Pair of new runners lead Tide


Eldoret, Kenya, has a population of more than 200,000 and is one of the fastest growing towns in Kenya. Located so uth of the Cherangani Hills, it rests more than 7,000 feet above sea level and has developed a reputation as a breeding ground for the greatest distance runners ever to compete.

Olympian Moses Kiputanui, regarded as the greatest steeplechase runner of all time, who was the first man to run the 3,000-meter steeplechase in under eight minutes, calls Eldoret home.

As wells as Kiputanui, two members of the University of Alabama cross country team come from this land hailed as “stony river” due to the nearby stony Sosiani River.

Juniors Carrison Kemei and Joel Rop, who both transferred to Alabama from junior colleges, are two members to this year’s roster that are making their presence felt.

During the Crimson Classic meet held in Tuscaloosa on Saturday, Kemei finished fourth in his first race with the Tide with a time of 24:04.30. Rop, also in his first cross country meet at Alabama, finished eighth and almost a minute behind Kemei with a time of 25:03.80. Kemei and Rop were the Tide’s top two finishers Saturday, finishing ahead of returning All-American Moses Kiptoo.

“Both Joel and Carisson are talented athletes that add a lot to the team,” head coach Joe Walker said. “They have the ability to cover a range of events.”

Even though both are quiet, polite and mild-mannered, they do have a side to them that enjoys joking around and being one of the guys.

“They open up around each other,” Walker said. “Culturally, they’re studious, quiet and don’t do a lot to stand out, but when they are with each other, they joke around and show their personality.”

Both are still getting used to life in Alabama and the United States. Rop, who came to Alabama in January, confesses that there is a stark contrast with Alabama and the life he knew in Kenya.

“It’s a bit hard,” he said of living in Kenya. “We had no cars. It was really different.”

Even though cross country is his sport of choice now, Rop says football and basketball are his favorite sports. It wasn’t until high school that he developed a passion for running.

“I did cross country in high school and my dad used to run,” he said. “I was playing field hockey, which was my favorite game, and [cross country] came to mind after high school.

“I was influenced by the athletes and began running every morning.”

He said that it was shortly after he began running he was offered a scholarship to Butler Community College, where he excelled on the course.

Walker said that, among the areas that Rop performs in, he is best suited as a “middle distance” runner, someone who excels at running mile races.

As a freshman, he garnered All-American status on 12 occasions, as well as being a four-time Academic All-American. The success continued as a sophomore when he collected All-American status in the 1,000, 1,500, 3,000 and 5,000-meter races and the 4×800-meter relay.

Soon thereafter, Walker came calling to bring him to Alabama.

For Kemei, his journey to Alabama took a pit stop in Lebanon, Ill., as he spent one semester at McKendree University, which is a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics program.

At McKendree University, he was an excellent performer as an NAIA All-American and National Runner-up in the 5,000-meter run. He captured the NAIA National Championship as part of the distance medley relay squad, as well as the American Mideast Conference Runner of the Year and Freshman of the Year awards.

However, in his first semester in Tuscaloosa, he gives credit to Walker for his improvement as a runner during his short time in the program. He said his performance gets better every day because of Walker’s leadership.

“It’s always good to have a good working relationship with the guys,” Walker said. “My job is to help them achieve their goals and dreams and to try and find out what motivates them.”

Kemei said it wasn’t until high school that he became interested in running and began participating with cross country.

During his time here at Alabama, he said he wants to perform well in the classroom and run well for the team.

With their remaining time at Alabama, both Kemei and Rop aspire to be better runners. However, their coach wants to help them grow in other aspects of life as well.

“I always want to see guys grow,” Walker said. “I want to see them become better people as well as [better] runners. It’s good to help someone grow up.”

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