In his first month as a student at Newman University, junior Reagan Longei broke the school record for the fastest 6k and 8k.
With a time of 18 minutes, 54 seconds, Longei’s 6k broke the 2017 record by Austin Lavin by 25 seconds on Sept. 2 at the JK Gold Classic.
After setting a new record for the 8k with a time of 25 minutes, 6 seconds on Sept. 16, Longei broke his own record once again on Sept. 23 with a finishing time of 25 minutes, 4 seconds.
Coach Josh Schepis said he didn’t expect Longei to break the 8k record. Longei was just as surprised, partly because he suffered an injury a few days before the race on Sept. 16.
“A hamstring was bothering me and a shinsplint was bothering me,” Longei said. “I showed up at practice on Wednesday and ran one mile and it was so painful. I couldn’t run because it was so painful and everybody was sad. That taught me something about my teammates. I realized these people really mean good for me because how they reacted made me emotional.”
Schepis told Longei to take it easy so as to not make the injury worse. A few days later, the team traveled to Nebraska for race day.
“I was freaking out because I thought, ‘What if when the gun goes off my leg starts to hurt again?’ Whenever something like that is in your brain, it can affect your run and bother you. But I ran and kept going, and when I saw there was one kilometer to go I thought I could actually break the school record.”
Sure enough, Longei beat his personal best 8k time and set a new school record.
“This was back-to-back meets for him, which was impressive,” Schepis said.
Schepis admires Longei’s dedication to the cross-country team and in the classroom.
“He takes running very seriously,” Schepis said. “Sometimes you get kids who just want to run to help them go to school, but he truly loves to run and really wants to do his best in his classes. It’s nice to see him put in that effort.”
Longei believes that talent without practice is nothing. This is why he actively puts in the hours of speed work and long runs — amounting to nearly 60 miles a week — to perform at his best. Longei’s goal for the season is to run an under-25-minute race.
Although running is now a love of Longei’s, this wasn’t always the case.
“I used to hate running,” he said with a smile. “I’m from Kenya, and when you try to go to college in a growing country like where I’m from, it’s very expensive. I didn’t even consider it until my cousin gave me the idea that if I ran, there would be schools in the U.S. that could accept me for a scholarship and would pay for school.”
Now, the very sport Longei once despised is what led him to his new home at Newman. Longei credits his cousin Haron Lagat, who coaches professional athletes in Colorado, for “making everything possible for me to be in America.”
“If it weren’t for him, I would not be here,” Longei said.
Schepis is proud of the entire cross-country team at Newman and expects more records will be achieved this season.
“The cross-country program is moving in the right direction and we try to get a little better every year,” Schepis said. “Asher Brown owns the 10k record and he, Reagan and Kevin Chemalmal all rank closely together. Jake Beauchamp broke in the top five for freshman. … We’re starting to compete at a much higher level, and our athletes are still setting records.”
On Sept. 23, the men and women’s teams competed at the Thrasher Invitational at Bethel College. There, runner Patricia Limo won first overall at the meet — the first time that a Jet won a race for the women’s cross-country team, finishing with a time of 18 minutes, 36 seconds.
At the same meet, Lucy Brown finished in third place and Nayelle Rosales finished in fifth. The women finished second overall, with Rosales and Anna Corbett having their best personal times. The men finished first overall thanks to Longei, Brown and Kevin, who also finished in the top five.
The Newman cross-country team will head to Dallas to race at the Old Glory Gallup on Oct. 7.
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