The Wildcats just gained some big ground in their cross country and track programs as they prepare to add a two-time national champion to the roster.
Stephen Sambu, who won back-to-back NJCAA Division I cross country titles, has signed a letter of intent to attend the University of Arizona. He comes by way of Rend Lake College, a community college in southern Illinois, where he was the NJCAA national champion in the 10k and 5k outdoor events and the 3k, 5k, and mile run indoor.
Sambu, a 21-year-old native of Kenya, has never lost a race on the national stage.
Rend Lake College is one of the top junior college cross country programs in the nation and the Warriors are the 2009 NJCAA men’s cross country national champions. The program has seen a number of international athletes come through its cross country and track programs, including NJCAA record-holder Boaz Lalang, an Olympian who now runs for Adidas.
One of the draws to UofA was the Wildcats’ head coach in the cross country program, James Li, who helped train Bernard Lagat. Lagat is a two-time Olympic medalist who just won the Wanamaker Mile at the prestigious Millrose Games in New York at age 35. Sambu said Li’s long relationship with Lagat was enough evidence of his quality as a coach.
UofA’s cross country team finished eighth in the Pac-10 last season.
Sambu will be a welcome shot in the arm.
(Photo from Rend Lake College includes Sambu (center) and Rend’s distance coach, Eric Alberter (right)