Sept. 25, 2008
AUBURN - When Elkanah Kibet transferred to Auburn from Rend Lake Community College in Ina, Ill., he hit the ground running. The junior college transfer won the first race of his career as a Tiger Sept. 5 at the 5K Powerade Invitational in Chattanooga, Tenn. At the race Kibet finished with a time of 14:49, the fastest 5K time posted in the conference.
Kibet's reserved demeanor lit up as he talked about his excitement over the coming season.
"I've never felt as strong as I'm feeling right now," Kibet said. "I think this year is my moment."
He called the first race easy and explained that the team has not yet started the hardest part of their training.
"Training to compete in the SEC was tough," Kibet said, "but so far everything seems to be working excellent. I am getting better so I know I am on the right track."
That track could lead to a season full of championships and honors, something Kibet is familiar with. He was the 2008 NJCAA outdoor track and field 10,000m champion and was a 5,000m indoor champ. Rend Lake won the national indoor title. In similar fashion, Kibet has started off at Auburn with the first installment of weekly SEC honors, garnering Male Athlete of the Week accolades on Sept. 9 for his performance at the 5K Powerade Invitational.
Kibet said he had not expected to win SEC honors so early in his Auburn career.
"I was impressed by it," he said. "I was not expecting to do that (win the first race). I want to get better as we go. I want to improve every time I go to a race."
During the summer, Kibet learned to adjust to the pressures of transferring to a Division I school. The athletic training was tough, but he also had to get used to the academics. His teammates helped him adjust quickly, telling him what to expect and what to do in class.
When selecting a university after community college, he was sold on Auburn's small-town atmosphere and training facilities.
"When I came and looked at the training facilities and the running places, they were excellent," Kibet said. "That's what I was looking for. I didn't want a big place or a big town. I wanted a place where I can get trained well, and Auburn was what I was looking for."
Kibet's enthusiasm about competing with the Auburn team is evident in his voice as he talks about the coming year.
"Cross country is teamwork," he said. "You cannot win by yourself."
During training the competition among the runners helps them all improve. As they make each other better individually, they improve as a team.
"This year we want to win a championship," Kibet said. "What we really want is regional and conference. Individually, I'll see where I am and see what I need to improve on. I hope to do well this year, better than I've ever done. I think I am going to accomplish something in my life this year. I look forward to that."