INA, Ill. – Rend Lake College distance runner Pasca Cheruiyot chose Tuesday to continue her running career in the fall at Missouri State University.
Cheruiyot, 21, of Eldoret, Kenya, is the current national Juco cross-country champion and champion of the 5,000m, 3,000m and mile events at the 2008 NJCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships where she led her team to a national title. It is the first national championship for the Lady Warriors track and field program in only two years since being established at the comprehensive two-year college, located on the east shore of scenic Rend Lake, in Southern Illinois.
As one of this year’s top 10 most heavily recruited student-runners across the nation, Cheruiyot pored over a torrent of propaganda from representatives and coaches of premier running programs at universities like Stanford, Oregon, Michigan, Louisville, Arkansas, Arizona State, and more. But, she did not play the typical role of a top-shelf selectee. The steadfast, yet shy, champion didn’t even tell her coach, Denny Myers – the man she says was the most caring and encouraging figure in her athletic and academic experience at RLC – that she was choosing MSU until she showed up at his office door on Tuesday, commitment papers in hand.
And the Lady Bears’ running programs aren’t exactly chopped liver. The cross-country team was the Missouri Valley Conference runner-up behind Wichita State in the fall and seven MSU track and field athletes earned All-Conference honors after the team’s sixth-place showing at the MVC Indoor Championships in early March. Led by track coach Ron Boyce and cross-country coach Greg Hipp, Myers credited MSU as being a young, up-and-coming program.
Cheruiyot loves running and she is not naive to where her feet can take her. Pasca’s sister is Kenyan marathon specialist Rose Cheruiyot, who continues to enjoy a celebrated career while being a mother of two. Pasca’s plan, however, is bigger than running or championships or records and medals. And that is why this altruist chose to become a Lady Bear.
“They have a wonderful nursing program,” she said. “I want to go into their [Bachelor of Science in Nursing] program. There are a lot of sick people in Kenya who need help. One day, I need to go back home and help those people.”
She said she her call to healthcare came when she was a high school student in Eldoret, visiting a local hospital.
“There were so many people who were so sick and not getting help they need,” she said. “There is a shortage of good nurses in Kenya.”
She is set to graduate from RLC in the summer and her high GPA helped the women’s cross-country program finish 14th among all Academic All-American NJCAA women’s cross-country teams across the US.
“Rend Lake College has been a very, very good opportunity for me ... not only in cross-country, but in my studies,” she said. “I have enjoyed a really good education from good instructors. Tutors have been available to me, I have had time to study and they have good computer labs. They have really prepared me to handle a lot of things. They have prepared me to succeed at the next level.”
She expressed thanks to the Minor family – Mark, Pam, Elizabeth, Rex and Hunter – who have acted as her family since she arrived in the US.
“They have been like family to me,” she said.
Pam Minor said she feels like she is watching her own child begin a great adventure.
“It has been wonderful,” Minor said of her time with Cheruiyot. “It’s been a really great experience.”
Cheruiyot has worked extremely hard, academically, to get to where she is today. One illustration of her dedication occurred at RLC’s Homecoming earlier this year. Cheruiyot was to be presented her NJCAA Cross-Country Championship ring, along with men’s champion Ben Cheruiyot of RLC, before the crowd of spectators who had come to watch the basketball games that evening. When it was time for her to accept her ring, the announcer explained that she was unable to attend. He did not give a reason, but those who know Pasca were well aware that she was in night class.
She decided to accept an athletic scholarship to MSU based on her feeling that she will find a good balance between athletics and academics there. At other schools, she said, the focus might be too much on running. According to Myers, the most important thing is that it is her choice and she has made it.
“If she is happy, then it’s the right place,” he said. “She needs to go where she will be happy and, hopefully, she is happy.”