Vincent Kiprop came to the United States in search of an education, as well as a chance to compete against some of the best runners in the world.

At Missouri Southern, he’s on pace to receive both.

Kiprop, the second eldest of six children, hails from Kericho, Kenya – a town in western Kenya with a population of more than 150,000 people. He began running at 13 years old, excelling at track and field at Londiani Boys High School. While he did all his running on his own without the benefit of a coach, he eventually caught the eye of a coach who not only noticed his abilities in running, but also in the classroom.

“He told me he wanted to introduce me to a coach that would help me find a scholarship to a U.S. school,” Kiprop said. “That way I would be in a place that was competitive and I can do both my studies and running.”

He had a friend that had planned to go to Missouri Southern, but was unable to attend. Kiprop did some research about the university and liked what he saw.

“I went on the school’s website and instantly my heart felt this was the right place for me,” he said. “I emailed back and forth with Coach (Schiding) and it was a short process before I was making plans to come here.”

As a freshman nursing major, he was named the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association National Male Cross Country Student-Athlete of the Year for Division II. He started his collegiate career by winning his first meet in a very competitive Missouri Southern Stampede. He went on to place 11th in a field of mainly Division I runners at the University of Arkansas’ Chili Pepper Invitational and then was a second-place finisher at a meet at Missouri S&T. That meet would be the last meet he would lose until the National Championship.

He went on to win the MIAA Championships, the NCAA Central Region meet and finish as the national runner-up at the 2015 NCAA Division II National Championship, a meet hosted by MSSU in Joplin. The runner he finished second to at the NCAA Championships, Alfred Chelanga, is also a Kenyan, and also a true freshman like Kiprop.

Kiprop went on to win every event he ran in during the 2016 indoor regular season, including winning the MIAA titles in both the 3,000 meter and 5,000 meter, but just missing out on All-American honors at the NCAA Championships. Moving on to the outdoor season, Kiprop won his first race (5k) at Southwest Baptist and placed in the top 12 of two prestigious meets (Mt. Sac Relays and the Drake Relays). He won three separate events at the 2016 MIAA Outdoor Championships (5,000 meters, 10,000 meters and the 3,000-meter steeplechase), earning him the MIAA High Point Award for the meet. That award goes to the individual that scores the most points at the event.

The pinnacle of his freshman campaign came at the 2016 NCAA Division II Outdoor Championships, where he blew past his competition to win the Division II National Championship in the 10,000 meter. He finished 10 seconds in front of the second-place runner and he was 42 seconds in front of Chelanga, the national champion in cross country. Most recently, Kiprop was a repeat champion at the 2016 MIAA and NCAA Division II Central Regional Meets – the latter of which he won by a margin of 1:23 and was named the NCAA Central Region Men’s Cross Country Athlete of the Year for the second-straight year.

He has continued his pace by winning the first two events of the 2016 cross country season by margins of 47 and 42 seconds, respectively. Kiprop credits much of his success with the talent of his teammates. Without them, he would not be pushed as much as he has been.

“This year, we have the ability to be a pretty good team,” he said. “This team’s work ethic is outstanding and everyone is very passionate about running. When we do our workouts everyone pushes everyone and when that is happening, the whole team moves forward.

“I have always had the spirit to work hard, no matter what the circumstance. Nothing is impossible in life. So long as you have the will and the power, you can achieve it.”