Kangogo starts 2011 off, finally healthy

In 2008 when Alfred Kangogo joined the UAA cross-country team as a freshman he was quick to make a name for himself in the world of college athletics, receiving All-region and All-Conference honors.

The same year he helped the squad complete NCAA Championships with a 11 place overall finish and was the fourth ‘Wolf to finish at nationals, coming in 90 place. The same year he helped his team win the GNAC competition crossing the finish line in third place. This was were he proved himself to the world but months before he had already proven him self to UAA Head Coach Michael Friess.

Before the season begins the team does a small 3K run. At the time Kangogo was suffering from problems with lateral knee pain, a condition often caused by inflammation of the iliotibial band but like many athletes he ran through the pain.

“I will never forget him, running up that hill, quite fast, just dragging his leg behind him,” Friess said with a smile.

It’s moments and qualities like that, that have given him the nickname “The Bulldog”. He is loyal, determined, hard working and a leader to his team giving him the fitting title, according to Friess.

It wasn’t until high school though, that Kangogo really learned he could run.

He attended Kitale Boys HS and would compete in small competitions. One day the right man watched.

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A coach from Texas State University saw the potential that he and others possessed and told them if they studied hard and took the SAT’s they could qualify for various scholarships. And that is just what Kangogo did.

“He gave me this book about it, and I read every page in the book and applied to like six different schools. The coach at UAA responded very positively to me, so I came here.” Kangogo said.

Originally from a small village in Eldoret, Kenya, he spent most of his adolescent years running.

Running ten miles to his elementary school, then home for lunch, then back after lunch and once again back home. In the evenings he would play soccer or field hocking but no matter what he was running, well except for the moments he was dancing.

The eldest of seven, the nutrition and nursing major hopes to take his education back home once he graduates.

“It’s not like here where there is a doctors office or hospital on every corner,” Kangogo said. “Most places have no doctor, not even nurses.”

Unfortunately he won’t be able to start nursing school until the summer of 2012, in the mean time he is focusing on getting his nutrition degree.

Along with his education goals he also hopes to finish the 1500 in 3:40 and a mile under four minutes.

“Boy, if I could really do that, I will be so happy,” Kangogo said laughing with a smile that stretches from ear to ear.

Kangogo said this season will be his beast because he is running like never before. After illness struck Kangogo in the 2010 track season he now has new inspiration.

Right before track and field nationals in 2010 Kangogo discovered a lump on his jaw. He quickly alerted the UAA athletic trainer but she told him he was not to worry, she figured the lump would go away. He proceeded to nationals where he received All-American honors.

In May the lump grew significantly. He went to the doctor but again the doctor told him not to worry. In July of the same summer the lump began to grow again, this time much bigger and faster. He returned to the doctor, where they took a X-RAY to discover Kangogo had a Ameloblastoma, a rare noncancerous tumor.

The doctors told him they would have to take a bone from his hip to replace it in his jaw, resulting in a life without running.

“I don’t know what I would do,” Kangogo said. “Cross country is everything, it’s my culture.”

Fortunately the doctors were able to use wire instead, keeping Kangogo’s running career going. He spent the 2010 cross country season recovering from the operation but came out strong for the 2011 track season.

That season was tragic for not only Kangogo but the rest of the team as well.  On Feb, 19  teammate William Ritekwiang was found dead.

“That was so hard,” Kangogo said. “You know there are only so many of us Kenyans so when you lose one its hard. We will all be standing around and it’s like we are missing one, where did someone go.”

His bulldog like qualities pulled him through.

He wrapped up NCAA championships receiving third place in the 1500 with a time of 3:57.25. He also became the GNAC Male Athlete of the Year and and receive All-American, All-Region and All-Conference honors.

He sprung into the the cross country season with just as much power. Thus far he has received a second place finish at the UAA Invite, in the 5K race with a time of 15:29. At the Big Wave Invite in Kane’oh Hawaii, Kangogo finished third.

This is just the start to Kangogo’s season.

“To be honest in the end I know he will be athletically successful, I know he will be academically successful. I just hope that this season is a good and happy one for him,” Friess said proudly.