Kimobwa Ran Into Record Book In 1977

Celebrating A Century of NCAA Track & Field Championships

Kimobwa Ran Into Record Book In 1977

June 3, 1977

This 10,000 meters was one distance fans waited for.

It would be one to remember.

Craig Virgin of Illinois had the home crowd heartily cheering for him, while Washington State teammates Henry Rono and Samson Kimobwa got their outer encouragement from each other.

This 10,000 meters – in the 1977 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Illinois’ Memorial Stadium – would be the trio’s first track meeting, and their first of any kind since they went 1-2-3 at the previous fall’s NCAA cross country championship, with Rono and Kimobwa over defending champ Virgin.

“From the beginning, the race was an absolute delight to watch,” wrote Dave Dorr of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It was 10,000 meters – a distance of 6 miles, 376 yards, a foot and 2 inches of tactics, surges, collisions and national pride.”

Virgin ran the first lap near the back, then moved up just behind the duo wearing Cougar crimson and gray who set the pace and traded the lead.

Each lap provided a mixture of lead changes, surges in pace and even “conversation” as Rono and Kimobwa spoke in their native Swahili language except in English when talking with Virgin – each claimed the others were crowding, pushing and stepping on them.

Every time one of the WSU athletes threw down a surge – a sporadic 64- or 65-second lap versus a 70 – Virgin responded. After a 14:22.1 first 5k (28:45 pace), the amount of surging increased to the point where Virgin got the crowd roaring with one of his own, and with about two laps to go it was just him and Kimobwa.

Kimobwa stuck right with Virgin’s move then overtook him as the hometown favorite faded. Kimobwa’s time – 28:10.27 – was a collegiate record, while Virgin (28:22.48) was also under the old NCAA meet record.

“Emotions can help at times,” Kimobwa told Rich Perelman for Track & Field News, who wrote, “Then he pointed to his head, saying, ‘But usually it’s here. You have to be tough’.”

Of the crowd? “Maybe I imagined they were cheering for me,” Kimobwa told Bob Payne of the Spokane (Washington) Spokesman-Review.

Epilogue

Rono – then a freshman and not yet the supreme force he would become – dropped off to finish 10th and a day later was second in the steeplechase. A year later he would set four world records in 81 days.

Virgin – the all-dates CR holder at 27:59.43 from when he made the 1976 U.S. Olympic team – would go on to win world cross country titles in 1980 and 1981, still the only such victories by an American male.

Kimobwa was in the best shape of his life and three weeks later set a world record of 27:30.47. Four days after that he followed with a 27:37.3 – with a 13:21.9 5k PR in between, second-fastest ever by a collegian regardless of the season.

posted: February 19, 2021
1921-2021
The NCAA's First Championships

The NCAA and collegiate track & field will mark a momentous milestone in the spring of 2021 -- the 100th anniversary of the NCAA Championships and with that, the NCAA Track & Field Championships. In June 1921, the University of Chicago hosted the first track & field championships in NCAA history.

This point can’t be emphasized enough: Not only was the event the first for NCAA track & field, but the first championships for any sport under the sponsorship of the NCAA.

To celebrate, over each of the next 365 days, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) will celebrate moments, student-athletes, and coaches that have made a century’s worth of championships special. From humble beginnings to important historical milestones to the modern-day, collegiate track & field has evolved with the American society.

The 2021 edition of the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships begin with preliminary round action on May 27-29 in Jacksonville, Fla., and College Station, Texas. The championships final site and culmination of the celebration is slated for June 9-12, 2021 at the newly rebuilt Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.

Memorable Moments
Greene Came Up Clutch In 1989 Long Jump
June 2, 1989

One of Joe Greene’s best days of long jumping started off dismally. It would end with a victory in one of the most memorable competitions in the near 100-year history of the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

Cal’s Williams Set World Record In 1936
June 20, 1936

Archie Williams set a world record in the 400 of 46.1 in the heats of the 1936 NCAA Outdoor T&F Championships. Williams then won the NCAA title by just 0.1 seconds!

Sternberg Reached New Heights In 1963
June 15, 1963

Brian Sternberg won the pole vault title at the 1963 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. He was the first athlete to clear 16 feet in meet history at 4.97m (16-3¾).

Kimobwa Ran Into Record Book In 1977
June 3, 1977

Samson Kimobwa set a MR in the 10K of 28:10.27 at the 1977 NCAA DI Outdoor T&F Championships. He won by 12.21 seconds in a race that saw the top-2 finishers under previous meet record.