Warwick native and St. Raphael Academy junior Darius Kipyego put on a show at the Pan Am U20 track meet in San Jose, Costa Rica last month, taking home second place in the 800-meter run on the world’s biggest stage.
Kipyego, who also won the outdoor state championship in the 800 at Brown back in June and also took home fourth in the New Balance Nationals for indoor track, finished with a time of 1:49.46, which was the fastest prep time in the country this year.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Not many people are able to put on that USA gear and have an all-expense paid trip to Costa Rica to run for the best country in the world. The environment was incredible, there were legends there like Carl Lewis, just to be there with all those other countries, it was a great time. We all came together, the closing ceremonies were great, it was really just once in a lifetime,” said Kipyego of the experience.
This was Kipyego’s first time competing on the international stage, and was ranked 10th in his division. Despite the relatively low ranking, he was confident in himself and his game plan heading into the race.
“The race was spectacular; I would have never thought that I would run the time that I did. Everything was set up perfectly, my coach and I planned and set everything up. We made it to Costa Rica and had a very specific plan, we wanted to make sure I trained but didn’t overdo it. He said that the race would be won in the last 100 meters, so when I hit the 200-meter mark I set myself up to have a good run in the last 100,” said Kipyego.
Kipyego was excited to pull off the upset and thrives on being considered the underdog.
“I was at a loss for words, there are pictures of my and my coach’s (reaction), we just couldn’t believe it. I don’t think anyone expected me to come in second since I was ranked 10th going into the race. I have always been kind of an underdog, at the U20’s in Florida I was ranked 14th out of 14. I like being the underdog, shocking people and showing them what I could do. I was OK with (being ranked 10th), I got to show people my true potential,” said Kipyego.
He will now turn his attention to the 2019-20 indoor and outdoor seasons. As a junior-to-be, Kipyego is determined to put his best foot forward, and to catch the eye of colleges that will be tuning into each race.
“This definitely gives me some momentum, but there is still a lot of really great competition in Rhode Island,” said Kipyego. “Classical’s Conor Murphy just broke the state record, so I’m looking forward to pushing him and having him push me. This is going to be a big year because this is when colleges will see how good you really are.”