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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Athlete of the Week

    Irine Lagat

    Redshirt junior distance runner Irine Lagat made winning look easy as she took the 3,000-meter run at the Jim Click Shootout at Roy P. Drachman last Saturday. Lagat finished in 9:47.33 – nearly 20 seconds faster than the second place finisher, teammate Marissa Urban. The Arizona Daily Wildcat caught up with the Kenya native yesterday to discuss her performance, her motivation and the legacy of her brothers.

    Wildcat: How did you feel about your performance this weekend and how do you take that and carry it toward the rest of the outdoor season?
    Lagat: I think my performance this week was to help me for the rest of the outdoor season. I was hoping (for) a better performance, which I thought it was, and at the same time I wanted to build my confidence and build the future because I’m going to be running the 5k (5,000 meter run). The coaches though that the 3k would be a good way of pacing me toward that. But it was good, I liked it. Even with the wind, I was happy with my performance.

    W: How big was it for the UA as a team to take first and second place against such strong competition in that race?
    L: I think it was something that we needed as a team. You always want to be the best, and be associated with the best. Coming up first and second, I think we did real well. We talked about having good times and we wanted to do our best.

    W: As one of the leaders of the distance squad, how do you think your performances affect the younger athletes?
    L: I just associate (the distance team) as a family thing. Even when you’re older you have people looking after you. I have my brothers that I look up to and they have done great. I have my sisters who have done great so I look up to them. I’m sure that on the team the athletes have someone that would make them say, “”I want to do as good as Irine”” or “”I want to do as good as Marissa.”” It’s something where you look up to people so I guess that’s what makes me feel motivated and confident and helps me to try to be a better athlete.

    W: You mentioned your brothers, Robert (Cheseret) – who did great things while here at Arizona – and Bernard (Lagat) who is one of the fastest distance runners in the world. Does following in their footsteps leave tough shoes for you to fill?
    L: I wouldn’t put it that way. When I was younger my sisters were running, too. It’s been a tradition in the family that the older (siblings) would portray a good picture for us. Every day growing up, I wanted to be like my sisters and I told them, “”I’m coming for your time.”” So I would not say its so much pressure as it is motivation.

    W: Robert still comes to train with (UA head) coach (James) Li every once in a while. Does it help you out having him around for you and how did he help you while he was still a student?
    L: It does help. When I was a freshman it was a new place and a new environment for me. I had never been to the U.S. before and I needed someone to be there for me. He took me to all my classes and introduced me to the friends I have now and just made me feel comfortable.

    W: Bernard is training for the Olympics right now. Even though you are young, is being an Olympian in your future goals?
    L: I have always wanted to. But I’ve always told myself, “”One at a time so you don’t get pressured.”” So, let me get through college and do my best and out of the best I get from college, that’s what we’ll determine tomorrow.

    W: Coming to the United States for the first time as a freshman in college, what was the biggest culture shock you faced?
    L: Mostly it was the language. We speak Swahili and we knew English but I still found it hard to adapt, especially to the American English since we knew the British English. The food was really different, too, and I had to kind of get used to that. And making new friends was difficult, too. But I will just tell you this: The UA athletes and students are great people. They make me feel like I’m a part of things and that helps me to have another day tomorrow.

    W: What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
    L: Just to be positive in life. When you do things, look for the positive side. Coach Li tells us to be happy and look at the positive side of life. And I don’t take that for just athletics but that’s what carries me to get along in my life and in school. Be happy, be motivated, be somebody who has a goal in life. Like my dad tells me, aim for the best.

    W: What’s your motivation?
    L: My motivation is having people that love me. If I wake up and I’m feeling down then I have people to talk to. I have my parents, my siblings and my friends. Those are the people that keep me going when I’m down and give me just one more day.

    W: How has being a (UA) athlete changed your life?
    L: First of all, having an opportunity to be a Wildcat is more than being any other athlete anywhere. I call myself “”Kenyan Wildcat”” (laughs), because I’m a Kenyan but I’m a Wildcat, too. It has given me a better picture of life. Not looking at today, but looking at tomorrow. You can always see the benefits from being an athlete here. A responsible person? Yes. It gives you leadership? Yes, it does. Friendship? You have the family togetherness and I think those are the main things I’ve got from (the experience).

    – interview by Jeremy Hawkes

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