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Athletes of Distinction

David Rowlands Award
The 2012 David Rowlands Award goes to Iowa Central distance runner Stanley Kebenei

Iowa Central Community College sophomore distance runner Stanley Kebenei has been showered with accolades over the past two years. The honors continued for Kebenei  this week as he claimed 2012 David Rowlands Award, presented by the NJCAA to the nation’s top male student-athlete.

“I am so proud,” Kebenei said. “I’ve been working so hard for this ever since I came to junior college.”

During his time at Iowa Central, Kebenei dominated the NJCAA’s long distance competitions. Kebenei earned nine individual national championships, leading the Tritons to a national title in the 2011 half marathon and back-to-back indoor track and field crowns in 2011 and 2012.

“He is definitely one of the most talented, if not the most talented runner I’ve ever had,” said Iowa Central track and field head coach Denny Myers.

On the indoor side of Kebenei’s track and field resume are five individual championships and back-to-back Men’s Most Valuable Track Athlete of the Meet awards. Kebenei won the 3K, 5K and mile run in 2011 and the 5K and 1,000-meter run in 2012. At the 2011 Half Marathon Championship, Kebenei acquired another title with a NJCAA-record time of 1:06.17.7. Kebenei’s accomplishments also include victories in the 5K and 1,000-meter run at the 2011 Outdoor Track & Field Championships. 

Despite all of the victories that Kebenei has acquired over the years, there’s something else about the student-athlete that Myers will remember him by.

“The big smile on his face is what stands out about Stanley,” Myers said. “He’s quick with a smile and there’s not much that brings him down. He’s a pretty happy kid and that’s special in today’s world.”

Hailing from Kenya, Kebenei joins former South Plains College (Texas) runner Sally Kipyego as the second Kenyan student-athlete to earn a NJCAA student-athlete of the year award. Carrying on the storied lineage of Kenyan distance runners, Kebenei combined his inherent talent with an unyielding work ethic to become one of the best distance runners the NJCAA has ever seen.

“Stanley is one of those Kenyan kids that comes from a background of hard work,” Myers said. “Since he was a little kid, he’s been expected to work. That just carries over into what he’s done for us. He practices like nobody else and races like nobody else.”

Despite the preconceived notion that Kenyan distance runners are better due to their country’s geography, Kebenei stated that the biggest obstacle he has faced since coming to America is the change in climate. Coming from a region of mild temperatures with low variability, the United States presented Kebenei with weather that fluctuated more between the two extremes.

“The biggest challenge has been the training in the weather,” Kebenei said. “Coming from Kenya straight to the United States, it was strange that it was cold enough to be snowing and then all of a sudden it was a hot summer.”

Kebenei was favored to add even more notches to his belt at the 2012 Outdoor Track & Field Championships but his junior-college career was cut short when he suffered a hip flexor.

“My injury was a surprise to me because I didn’t even know that I had an injury,” Kebenei said. “It just came on slowly. When the season started it, I began feeling it and it just got worse. After starting treatment, I’m starting to feel better.

Looking forward to his recovery, Kebenei is anxious to continue his running career next season at the University of Arkansas. Kebenei’s desire after graduating is to work in international criminal justice, but right now there is only one goal on his mind: winning.

“When I get to the NCAA, I really want to win a national title,” Kebenei said. “I think that by working hard like I did in junior college, I have a chance to be great. I can’t wait to get there.”

Kebenei’s superior athletic ability gave him the tools to be the top male student-athlete in the nation. His hard work however, is what led him to becoming one of the most successful distance runners in NJCAA history and the winner of the 2012 Rowlands Award.

David Rowlands was an active member of the NJCAA from 1972- 1988. He was a regional director during that time and from 1975-1988 was the chair of the NJCAA baseball committee. Rowlands, a baseball coach at Truman College (Chicago, Ill.), served on the NJCAA gymnastics, golf, executive and eligibility committees. Rowlands was the perfect model of hard work, discipline, ethics and excellence in community college athletics. This award is given annually to the NJCAA Student-Athlete that best exhibits these traits.

The National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) is the governing body of two-year college athletics, offering endless athletic and academic opportunities to college students. It is the second largest national intercollegiate athletic organization in the United States with over 500 member schools in 43 states. Each year over 50,000 student-athletes compete in one of 28 different sports and the organization sponsors 48 national championship events and nine football bowl games each year. For more visit www.njcaa.org.


Year Name School
 2011-12   Stanley Kebenei  Iowa Central CC
 2010-11    Keenyn Walker  Central Arizona College
 2009-10   Ricardo Ratliffe  College of Central Florida 
 2008-09   Chris Mason  SUNY-Delhi, N.Y.
 2007-08   Devron Bostick  Southwestern Illinois College
 2006-07   Cody Jamieson  Onondaga CC, N.Y.
 2005-06   Brian Flores  New Mexico JC 
 2004-05   Michael Murray  Meridian CC, Miss.
 2003-04   Larry Kendrick  Pearl River CC, Miss.
 2002-03   Filiberto Rivera  Southeastern CC, Iowa
 2001-02   Cory Patton  Seward County CC, Kan.
 2000-01   Marc Dunn  Ricks College, Idaho 
 1999-00   Mario Toledo  Georgia Perimeter College
 1998-99   Anthony Evans  Neosho County CC, Kan.
 1997-98   Shawn Marion   Vincennes University, Ind.
 1996-97   William Gladness   Carl Albert State College, Okla. 
 1995-96   Doug Thompson  Mississippi Gulf Coast CC
 1994-95   Joe Michael Robertson   Jones County JC, Miss.
 1993-94   Eddie Samuel  Pensacola JC, Fla.
 1992-93  Mike Worley  Coffeyville CC, Kan.

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