By Kayla Curry
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Many see the miles that Kennedy Kithuka runs on the track, but not many know the journey he traveled to make his dreams come true.
Kithuka moved to the United States from Thika, Kenya after being discovered by Texas Tech’s head cross country coach Jon Murray.
“I came from Kenya in 2010. I left in January and moved to Texas,” Kithuka said. “I went to Wayland Baptist for two years and then came to Texas Tech.”
The Texas Tech senior said before his time with Murray, he wasn’t the runner he is today.
“I was just average,” Kithuka said. “In high school, I was not that fast. I came to be serious about running in 2009. That’s when I met Coach Murray and knew that I could go to the U.S. because of my running. That’s when I really started to work hard.”
Kithuka said he was motivated by the thought of moving to the United States to compete and to receive an education.
All of Kithuka’s hard work paid off when he arrived at Wayland Baptist University and became a serious competitor, winning 12 NAIA National Championships during his time there.
As he made the move to Texas Tech in 2012, he knew he would face new challenges.
Kithuka said some people doubted his ability to compete as an NCAA Division I athlete, but he knew better.
“They thought I would be unable,” Kithuka said. “People think Division I is very competitive, but I know that I am capable of doing something good. I even have someone that can train me well like coach Murray and believes I can do everything well. I have that kind of motivation.”
Kithuka overcame this challenge by never holding back in any of his races.
“Every place I go,” Kithuka said, “Even if it is a small meet and I don’t have much competition, I go there and I do my work very well.”
Murray said this mindset is what has been the key to Kithuka’s success.
“His number one asset is his competitiveness,” Murray said. “He loves to compete. He’s just a person that gets in there and competes with anyone and everyone at all times. He’s a hard worker. He’s gifted. Put that together and it has made him very successful.”
Murray gave an example of Kithuka’s competitive side, reflecting on his performance at the 2013 Big 12 Indoor Championships in Ames, Iowa.
“Kennedy ran the 5,000-meters and set a new conference record. The next event he ran the DMR in a four-flat mile,” Murray said. “That takes a lot of competiveness to handle that pain that he was under. He was already tired, and he did that for the team.”
During a remarkable breakout season on the track in early 2013, Kithuka won Big 12 titles in each the 5,000-meter run and the 3,000-meter run. He went on to win an NCAA Indoor Championship in the 5,000-meter run in March.
Kithuka said this side of him comes from the reinforcement from those around him.
“My competitive streak comes from motivation that comes from my teammates and everything we do with Coach,” Kithuka said. “They give me all the support I need to do well.”
Murray also noted that Kithuka is seen as a leader on the team for more than just his success in competition.
“He’s just a great person,” Murray said. “He’s very humble. He’s always trying to help the team. It’s just his character alone that makes him stand out and is appreciated but then he wins. That combination makes him a great person.”
Kithuka will be returning to the NCAA National Cross Country Championship competition as the reigning champion after becoming Texas Tech’s first men’s NCAA Cross Country Champion in 2012.“I’m going to nationals to defend my title,” Kithuka said. “I’m happy to go there and represent Texas Tech.”