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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Ulcers can’t stop senior XC runner

For senior track star Stephen Sambu, running began as a punishment. Now, he is now embarking on his final year in Arizona, having overcome cultural and health challenges in pursuit of competing at a professional level.

“I am expecting to do better than all those other years I’ve raced because it’s my last year. It will determine if I will continue running or move onto something else,” Sambu said.

Sambu, originally from Kenya, began running around the school grounds during his senior year of high school to avoid cleaning classrooms instead. He quickly noticed it was an activity he not only enjoyed, but also excelled at.

“I didn’t really think about running but I started because of punishment in school. In Kenya, it’s different than this place. If you’re not doing anything, you have to do cleaning,” Sambu said.

Upon attending time trials back in Kenya, Sambu was offered scholarships from a few universities, but chose Rend Lake College in Ina, Ill. After his sophomore year, Sambu transferred. He said he came to Arizona for the weather, because he was drawn to the top-notch agricultural management program and because of his connections to head cross-country coach James Li.

Coming to America from a foreign country can be tough for any international student, but Sambu said he was especially worried because he wasn’t sure if he would be able to understand English.

“I’ve learned a lot, my thinking and growing and knowledge has changed,” Sambu said. “It was so tough, I was alone with the exception of a few Kenyan friends.”

He was able to make the adjustment, however, and now Sambu has managed to find success at the UA. Sambu’s teammate and NCAA Cross-Country Champion Lawi Lalang has certainly taken notice.

“I really look up to him, he’s like a brother and my biggest competitor,” Lalang said. “I really respect him.”

Unfortunately, Sambu was forced to postpone his final cross-country season. During training in August, Sambu began feeling sick. He was admitted to the University of Arizona Medical Center and treated for ulcers for nearly a month, then redshirted by the coaching staff. But Sambu said he’s ready to return to running.

“If I win something this year I think I will be so happy because I know it is really tough,” Sambu said. “My expectation is to win at least one event in the NCAA this year.”

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