COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Growing up in Kenya, Columbus State Cross Country runner Meshack Koyiaki spent a lot of his life running, but he didn't even realize he was doing it. Herding his father's cattle he got some practice in.
"I was interested in zebras more than any other animals because they would let me go close to them and then they'd start running and I'd be chasing them," Koyiaki remembers. "Sometimes, I remember one time I chased them almost all day. I came back, I lost the cattle, I couldn't find them all day. I didn't even eat lunch I was just chasing them."
Koyiaki came to the States in 2007 and ran for Chattahoochee Technical College for two years. Even with his Kenyan background he wasn't recruited.
"I was actually only trying to get Nicholas [Kering] because I didn't have enough scholarship money to get both," recalls head coach J. D. Evilsizer. "Someone at the last minute decided they weren't coming and that money freed up. Well I'll take him because he's Nicholas' friend and he wound up turning into a gem of a runner."
But, he didn't start out that way. Koyiaki didn't even finish his first race as a Cougar.
"Everyone thinks you're from Kenya and you can naturally run a world record just because you're from Kenya but there's plenty of people from Kenya that can't run very fast," Evilsizer said.
"I don't think there's something like a natural runner," Koyiaki said. "It takes practice. I think anybody can do it, it just depends on how you know, you train, if you get a good trainer, a good coach then anyone can do it, as long as you love it."
Two years later, Koyiaki has developed into not only the top runner at Columbus State, but one of the top in the country. This year he won the Crimson Tide and Louisville meets, both loaded with Division I runners. He also won his second straight Peach Belt title, while setting a course record.
"Actually, it was kind of overwhelming so to speak because when you do that good, it was a surprise to many people," Koyiaki said.
Now that he's established himself as a racer and not just a runner, Koyiaki's dreams of winning on a world stage may not be that far off.
"I've always thought of going to the Olympics when I was little. I thought it was going to take me a little longer than this but since I have a good coach, I see now that my transition is going faster than I thought, than I expected and I thank God for that. Hopefully one day I'll win a medal."