Sally Kipyego said she is working toward a goal of running at the 2011 World Championships and the 2012 Olympic Games – for her native Kenya.
Kipyego, who lives and trains in Eugene with Oregon Track Club Elite team, said she has applied for U.S. citizenship but knows it will be a minimum of three years before she is able to compete for the U.S. national team.
“Just to clear it up, immigration takes years,” Kipyego said. “For now, I’m going to run as a Kenyan.”
The nine-time NCAA champion from Texas Tech ran brilliantly on Feb. 5 at the New Balance Grand Prix in Boston, running away from Jenny (Barringer) Simpson to win the 3,000 in 8:49.74.
It was likely the only indoor race of the season for Kipyego, who called it “a fitness test.”
“That was a very good indicator of how training has been going,” she said. “I know we’re going in the right direction, which is good.”
Kipyego is part of a training group that includes Lauren Fleshman, Nicole Blood, Bridget Franek and Julia Lucas.
She said coming to Eugene after graduating with a nursing degree in Texas was the right choice.
“I took a huge leap of faith to leave Texas and move to Oregon, but I’m really pleased with how well it’s gone,” Kipyego said. “It’s been one of the most amazing experiences, beyond belief in a way.”
Kipyego said she plans to put her nursing degree to use, either in Kenya or the U.S., but that her running career is her top priority now.
“When I graduated I had to make a choice,” she said. “Either become a nurse or a professional athlete. I chose to go all-in and give running a shot. You can only run for so long. So I’m going to train full-time and see where athletics takes me and see how far I can go with it.”
Kipyego ran a personal best of 14:34.68 for 5,000 meters last August – 10 seconds faster than Molly Huddle’s American record – but thinks her best chance to medal globally might be at 10,000.
“For now, we’ll prepare as a 5K/10K athlete and see how I do, how I stack up among the other women,” she said.
Further into the future she sees herself in the marathon.
“Absolutely, I’ve thought about it,” Kipyego said. “Definitely in the next (Olympic) cycle. I have a brother who runs that distance so it’s in the genes. I’ll try it in the next two or three years. It’s my ultimate goal, for sure.”