Punyua shows his talent
Kenyan native wins two races for Glenelg Country
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.
Glenelg Country senior Kikanae Punyua won the mile and 3,200 meters at the Last Track To Philly, held at Georgetown Prep.