Pun­yua shows his tal­ent

Kenyan na­tive wins two races for Glenelg Coun­try

The Washington Post Sunday - - SKATING - BY CARL LIT­TLE lit­tlec@wash­post.com

Kikanae Pun­yua had never even seen an indoor track about this time last year. Now the 18-year-old na­tive of Kenya rarely sees one he can’t con­trol.

Pun­yua, a Glenelg Coun­try se­nior who only started run­ning in­doors last year, swept both dis­tance events at the Last Track To Philly, held Satur­day in front of a stand­ing-room-only crowd at Ge­orge­town Prep in North Bethesda.

“I think I’m in pretty good shape so far,” Pun­yua said.

Atholton was in good enough shape to win the boys’ team com­pe­ti­tion by one point over Thomas John­son. Boons­boro and Gil­man fol­lowed.

Whitman won the girls’ com­pe­ti­tion on the last event. The Vik­ings fin­ished just ahead of River Hill, Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Bowie.

Pun­yua’s first vic­tory came in a closely-con­tested mile, his lime green spikes cross­ing in 4 min­utes 27.47 sec­onds. He fol­lowed that up two hours later with a dom­i­nat­ing win in the 3,200 in 9:29.20.

Pun­yua had never run com­pet­i­tively be­fore ar­riv­ing at Wilde Lake, his for­mer school, for the 2009-10 aca­demic year. He was part of a pro­gram that gives schol­ar­ships to for­eign stu­dents in ef­forts to in­crease cross-cul­tural un­der­stand­ing.

He was en­cour­aged to join the track team as a way to make friends, but Pun­yua flour­ished quickly, go­ing un­de­feated in the 3,200 in­doors and out­doors and win­ning Mary­land state ti­tles in that event.

When the school year ended and his visa ex­pired, Pun­yua re­turned to Kenya. Then, last sum­mer, Glenelg Coun­try learned of Pun­yua’s sit­u­a­tion and of­fered him a schol­ar­ship. He ob­tained a new visa and re­turned to Columbia in Septem­ber.

An­other African-born ath­lete, Thomas John­son se­nior Lewis Shir­ima, also had a daz­zling per­for­mance on Satur­day. The Tan­za­nian made the crowd cheer when he went com­pletely up­side down in the pole vault be­fore clear­ing a Mary­land-best 14 feet 6.5 inches. It was higher than he had ever gone by al­most a full foot and just 2.5 inches short of the meet record.

The girls from Thomas John­son cruised to vic­tory in the dis­tance medley, bring­ing the ba­ton around in 12:43.64. They were 30 sec­onds faster than run­ner-up Bethesda-Chevy Chase and smashed the meet mark of 12:51.81 set by Here­ford in 2008.

Thomas John­son’s Brian Uthe eas­ily won the boys’ shot put with 52-3.50, break­ing the meet record of 51-10 he set last year. Bowie’s An­tonella Tay­lor won the girls’ com­pe­ti­tion hand­ily with 37-8.

Atholton won the boys’ team com­pe­ti­tion be­hind strong per­for­mances by An­drew King. He an­chored the Raiders’ 4x200 re­lay team that won in 1:33.12 be­fore fin­ish­ing sec­ond in the long jump with 21-10.75. Boons­boro’s Coby Gus­sio was the win­ner with 21-11.25.

JOHN MCDONNELL/THE WASHINGTON POST

Glenelg Coun­try se­nior Kikanae Pun­yua won the mile and 3,200 me­ters at the Last Track To Philly, held at Ge­orge­town Prep.

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