Despite her quiet persona, Keino is helping lead the UAA Cross Country Women’s team to new heights in the West and National polls.
“She’s a quiet person, but she’s becoming more comfortable with the leadership that she has,” Head Coach Michael Friess said.
Friess said that Keino doesn’t have to say much to be a leader, she lets her actions talk for her.
“Ruth really pushes the rest of the team,” senior teammate Emma Bohman said.
In 2008, Keino joined the ‘Wolves, after leaving her hometown of Kapcheno, Kenya.
“The Kenyans, like Ruth, have such a simple life style back home, running for them really goes back to what running is all about, the simplicity,” Friess said. “Its not about them, its about family pride.”
Keino, a two-time All-GNAC honoree, has to be strong not only athletically but academically. For Kenyan runners like Keino, they want to give back to their families and villages, said Friess.
“A majority of our Kenyan athletes are nursing majors (like Keino),” Friess said. “They want to take care of people.”
Keino is not the only one in her family to attend, and compete at UAA, Graduate Assistant Coach David Kiplagat, for example, is a cousin to Keino.
“It was a great opportunity for my family, I had to take it,” Keino said.
The same season, Keino finished the NCAA’s in 74th place, with a time of 23:24, after she finished the GNAC championships with a season best placing in 10th (23:03).
“I wasn’t expecting to do that, I just did it,” Keino said.
She finished her 2008-09 season red shirting in track and field, but came back in the 2009 cross-country campaign stronger, Friess said.
As a sophomore, Keino helped the Seawolves with a program-best finish of 39th place at the NCAA Championships.
UAA also won their first West Region and GNAC championship titles last season with the help of Keino who respectively took fourth and fifth place finishes.
At the UAA Invitational, Keino placed at number one when she completed the 5k course in a time of 18:22.80.
She was again honored in 2009 and was one of seven ‘Wolves to be named to the GNAC All-Academic team.
“If Ruth were to focus on running, and really gave it everything she had, she could be even more remarkable,” Friess said.
In this 2010-11 season, Keino has already contributed to the Seawolves team by helping lead the sweep of the Hawaii Pacific Invite on Sept. 4. Keino placed in first with a time of 17:17 after battling with fellow teammate and All-American sophomore Miriam Kipng’eno.
“Ruth and Miriam really make a excellent team,” Friess said
The runners from the United States really learn a lot from Kenyan runners, they learn that this experience isn’t a right but a privilege, Friess said.
Following the Hawaii Pacific Invite, Keino again had a respectable first place (17:47) win in a 5K race, at the BYU-Invitational held on Sept. 11.
The BYU-invitational earned Keino GNAC Athlete of the Week, joining fellow teammate senior Marko Cheseto.
“Ruth is one of the best, maybe the best, female runner we’ve ever had,” Friess said.
The women of the cross-country program are currently ranked number three in the U.S Track & Field Cross Country Coaches Association poll, partly credited to Ruth Keino herself, who seems to be an unstoppable force this season.
“Those polls really don’t mean much to us,” Friess said. “It’s nice to be recognized, but they don’t matter if we can’t succeed at the Regionals.”
“This is our transition time to get ready for regionals, we would like to push another two to three percent.”
The UAA men and women are in good health, high spirits, they are absorbing training but have a long way to go, according to Friess.