JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas – Sgt. Ednah Kurgat continues to run down her dreams.
The World Class Athlete Program Track and Field member captured her first USA Track and Field Cross Country national championship and first Armed Forces title on Jan. 21 in Richmond, Virginia. The victories qualified her for the 2023 World Athletics Cross Country Championships on Feb. 18 in Bathurst, Australia.
Kurgat’s 18th-place finish in the world championship has only whetted her appetite for gold on the Olympic and international levels.
“Running is a passion for me,” said Kurgat, a power generation specialist who enlisted in the Army in May 2020 and joined WCAP in October of that year. “I’m grateful the Army and WCAP gave me an opportunity to continue my running career as I serve my country.”
Kurgat grew up in Kenya and was introduced to distance running in high school with the aim of securing a college scholarship to the United States. Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, offered Kurgat a scholarship.
She spent a year at Liberty before transferring to New Mexico, where she led the Lobos to the team championship and became the school’s first individual NCAA cross country champion in 2017.
The desire to be part of a championship team and running in a warmer climate drew Kurgat to New Mexico. The Lobos won the NCAA championship in 2015.
“I was looking for a strong, dynamic program that was going to facilitate or make me more competitive on a professional level,” said Kurgat, who graduated from New Mexico in 2019 and was a three-time All-American.
Kurgat realized the best way to continue running was to enlist in the Army. She followed the exploits of fellow Kenyans and WCAP members Paul Chelimo and Shadrack Kipchirchir when they made the 2016 U.S. Olympic team in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, respectively.
“I was about to graduate, and I decided to reach out to the coach at the time,” Kurgat said. “He guided me through the process, and I was able to apply. Luckily for me, I had the qualifying standards that the program had set up for soldiers.”
Kurgat continues to realize her potential on the national and international stage since joining WCAP. The national championship, which she won in a time of 32 minutes, 6.5 seconds, more than four minutes ahead of teammate Spc. Collet Rampf, was the culmination of a training regimen of running 80 miles a week, or the equivalent of running roughly three marathons.
“That was the best she has run on the national stage,” said Staff Sgt. Sam Kosgei, also a native Kenyan and WCAP Track and Field coach.
“Every time we showed up for training, she was pushing herself, so she was trusting herself that she was better than everyone on the team. She earned that confidence before she went to nationals.”
While cross country and Olympic distance running are different, Kosgei says he likes the chances of Kurgat making the U.S. Olympic team and winning the gold medal.
“I definitely won’t count her out,” he said. “Right now, she has the confidence.”
And WCAP has not only honed Kurgat’s confidence as an athlete, but it has also sharpened her readiness and resilience as a Soldier.
“I can say I’m a more well-rounded person because of WCAP,” Kurgat said. “They’ve given me a chance to train and instilled in me the desire to serve. I highly recommend the program for those who want to serve in the Army and pursue their athletic goals. It’s just one of many possibilities our Army offers.”