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Selfless Kipyego leads SRA at state meet

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Instead of hunting individual glory in his final state meet, Iowa State-bound middle-distance runner Darius Kipyego helped his Saints teammates win a relay state title.

PROVIDENCE — No one would have faulted Darius Kipyego if he desired to transform his final track meet as a R.I. Interscholastic League competitor into an individual showcase.

If you know the 2021 St. Raphael graduate, you know that enjoys taking a few of his teammates along for the ride. Individual achievements have their special place, yet there’s something about the satisfaction of helping others join him in the winner’s circle that helps set him apart from others.

The fact that Kipyego – an Iowa State commit – chose to participate in two relay events during Saturday’s outdoor state track meet speaks volumes to how he views those who are also part of SRA’s stable of runners. Naturally, he further punctuated his own individual legacy as one of the state’s top middle-distance performers of recent vintage.

He produced a winning time of 1:54.04 to capture the 800-meter run by nearly three seconds over the next closest finisher.

When reflecting on what took place at Conley Stadium on the final Saturday of June, Kipyego’s desire to join forces with others in the pursuit of gold is nothing short of remarkable. Teaming up with younger brother/sophomore Devan Kipyego along with sophomore Pedro Mayol and junior Jack Pereira, the elder Kipyego helped the Saints kick off the running portion of the state meet with the program’s first-ever outdoor state title in the 4x800 relay (8:01.87).

The same quartet closed Saturday’s busy day of activity by placing third in the 4x400 (school-record time of 3:29.06).

“Darius wanted to help the other guys and he did that twice,” said SRA head coach Chris Magill. “Running two relays over another individual event, that’s the ultimate team player. He knew there were three other special boys on the team to help him get that baton around the track.”

It’s the not the first time that the Kipyego brothers along with Mayol and Pereira have basked in state meet glory. At the indoor state meet this past February, they hustled to a time of 3:34.87 to capture the 4x400.

“To see everyone grow and the progress we’ve made … we’re always pushing each other during workouts,” said Kipyego. “We have two guys in Pedro and Devan who are sophomores and Jack is a junior. All three of them will be going on to bigger and better things. It’s good to pass them the torch.

“To see them all happy and know what that feeling of winning is like … they’re always hungry for more,” added Kipyego. “It can be tough to ask distance guys to run fast in a relay, but as I told them before the two races, ‘Give it all you got. That’s all that matters to me no matter what place we get.’ That’s exactly what they did.”

Technically, Kipyego is a repeat state champ in the outdoor 800. As a sophomore in 2019, he cruised to a meet record time of 1:52.27. The 2020 state meet never happened due to COVID-19.

On Saturday, Kipyego needed to re-adjust on the fly following a series of false starts.

“I wanted to keep on moving, but the legs start to tighten up a bit,” said Kipyego. “I went through the first 200 [meters] the way I wanted to. It was a little bit slower than I would have liked at 400. The last 200, I gave it everything I had.”

For Kipyego, the joy of exiting the RIIL stage with two more state titles on his résumé was somewhat bittersweet.

“It’s sad to say goodbye to some of the relationships that I’ve created … bonds with other schools like Smithfield and Rogers,” he said. “I’m saying goodbye to a great coach [Magill] but it’s also exciting at the same time because I’m moving on to bigger and bigger things. Hopefully I can carry this on to my college career and see what I can do [with the Cyclones].”

Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03

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