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Kenyan-American Soldiers Compete at Olympic Trials

By Tim Hipps
U.S. Army Installation Management Command

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2012 – The “Kenyan Connection” struck twice for the U.S. Army on June 25 at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team Trials at historic Hayward Field here.

U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program distance runners Spc. Augustus Maiyo and Spc. Robert Cheseret, both Kenyan-Americans, advanced to the finals in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and 5,000 meter run, respectively.

Cheseret, 28, finished fifth in the first heat of the 5,000-meter preliminaries with a time of 13 minutes, 49.42 seconds.

Lagat, 37, is considered the most-dominant distance runner in U.S. history. He is the American record holder in the 1,500 meters, the mile, 3,000 meters, and 5,000 meters indoors, as well as the champ in 1,500-, 3,000- and 5,000-meter outdoor competition. He also is the Kenyan record holder at 1,500 meters outdoors.

Lagat also is a 12-time medalist in World Championship and Olympic competition, including five gold medals.

Maiyo’s 8:29.29 clocking here was the fourth-fastest time in two preliminary heats of the 3,000-meter steeplechase. He coasted across the finish line in fourth place in the fastest heat.

“The first two laps, I felt it was going hard,” Maiyo said. “At the middle is when I started settling in, I guess. From there, my mileage carried me because I have been running a lot. On the gun lap, I knew I could hang on with those guys. That’s when I decided to get to No. 3. It’s exciting to get to the finals but I don’t have a lot of expectations.

“I came just to enjoy the race, not to add pressure to it,” he continued. “I just wanted to see where I am with these guys.”

Without WCAP, Maiyo would not have been in Eugene for the Olympic Trials.

“When I graduated from Alabama, I didn’t want to run anymore,” said Maiyo, who had taken nearly a three-year break from the track. “When I joined the Army, they gave me the chance, so I started running again last year.”

Cheseret was harder pressed to make the 5,000-meter final. With 200 meters remaining in his qualification heat, no less than eight runners had a shot at six guaranteed spots in the final.

“I had to push a little bit harder,” Cheseret said. “It was almost like an all-out sprint because I saw three guys out there and there were three more guys next to me. I wanted to be in the top six so I had to sprint all the way through to the line.

“The last 600 [meters], the race started to pick up, and I knew that [the top] six [times] automatically qualify,” he added, “so I was trying to count three guys ahead of me and to make sure two more people didn’t pass me. I tried to stay relaxed as much as possible.”

Cheseret acknowledged that he feels the pressure to qualify for the Olympics at the trials here.

“The most pressure was to qualify for these trials because we were chasing the [Olympic] ‘A’ standard,” he said. “That’s the most pressure. Right now, they told us not to worry about anything else, just feel free and relaxed. That’s how you do your best, by running relaxed. There’s a little bit of pressure to make the team, but at the same time you try to tell yourself to stay relaxed.”

Cheseret and Maiyo are joined in WCAP by fellow Kenyan-American Joseph Chirlee, who finished 15th in the 10,000 meters at the Olympic Trials on June 22.

“Actually, that is the greatest thing that has ever happened to us,” Cheseret said. “Coming from Kenya, we went to school here. After school, we joined the Army. The Army helped us get our citizenship, and we’re able to represent the Army and represent the U.S. and we’re also training together as three guys from Kenya.”

“That is the best thing the Army has ever done for us,” he added. “We are really happy for that.”


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