Photo: courtesy Whitty Bass
In three months, exchange student from Kenya has become one of county’s best.
By Brent Kennedy
Wilde Lake’s Kikanae Punyua is a natural runner.
Until a couple months ago, however, no one — himself included — knew it.
Punyua, who arrived in the United States from Africa in August as part of the American Field Service exchange student program, had never officially raced before he started school at Wilde Lake. In fact, back in Kenya where he grew up, running was typically done out of necessity instead of for recreation.
“When I was back in Kenya I never thought about running, it’s not (popular) like here,” Punyua said. “I never tried it before like this.”
What started as simply trying something new, though, has blossomed into so much more. At the county championships Oct. 29, Punyua finished fifth. Then, at the regional championships Nov. 5, he led for more than half the race before taking second.
“He’s an amazing story,” Wilde Lake coach Whitty Bass said. “If you would have seen where he was when he first got here, to where he was now, you wouldn’t believe it. I’ve watched it, and I can barely believe it. People think, ‘Oh, he’s from Kenya he automatically should be a great runner,’ but it’s not that simple.”