Soldier achieves Olympic standard in steeplechase, credits Army with success

By Shannon CollinsMay 24, 2024

Sgt. Anthony Rotich completes the water jump during the Men's 3,000m steeplechase preliminary round at the 2023 USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships held in Eugene, Oregon, July 6, 2023. Rotich qualified for the steeplechase final, which was held later in the competition.
Sgt. Anthony Rotich completes the water jump during the Men's 3,000m steeplechase preliminary round at the 2023 USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships held in Eugene, Oregon, July 6, 2023. Rotich qualified for the steeplechase final, which was held later in the competition. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Hunnisett) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON — With a standing start, the Soldier hyper focuses on the 28 914-mm high fixed barriers and seven water jumps he needs to clear in the 3000-mm steeplechase to secure his Olympic dream.

Sgt. Anthony Rotich, a chemical equipment repairman assigned to the World Class Athlete Program at Fort Carson, Colorado, is the man to beat going into the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Track and Field in Eugene, Oregon, June 21-30, 2024.

Rotich achieved the Olympic Standard in the 3,000-mm steeplechase event and ranked number one in the men’s division in the U.S. His first mile time was 4:21 and overall finish was 8 minutes 13:74 seconds in Monaco, France. The Olympic qualification standard time for Paris his event is 8 minutes 15 seconds.

“It feels good having the standard going into the trials. I just need to be top three,” he said with a smile. “Most people are worrying about racing and getting their time, but I already have that. I can focus on the trials.

Journey begins

Growing up in Eldoret, Kenya, Rotich ran four miles each way to school every day with no shoes. During lunchtime, he would run back to his village, eat, and then run back to school.

“At the end of the day, you would be running 12 to 16 miles a day. In my community, everybody is a runner,” he said with a quick smile.

Growing up in Kenya, students like Rotich didn’t focus on one sport but played every sport they could in each sport season.

“When it’s track, everybody does track. When it’s soccer, everybody does soccer at that time. You’re everywhere,” he said enthusiastically.

Coming from a family of eight with little money, Rotich wanted to go to college and started looking into scholarships so he could take care of his family. He began training for a time trial. Coaches in Kenya will perform these trials and send times and information about athletes to college scouts.

“I ran the time trial barefoot. I didn’t have shoes,” he said. Rotich said he didn’t learn that a U.S. college coach wanted him until two weeks later.

“I didn’t have a phone. I was back in my village,” he said. “A lot of people were coming all the way to the village to look for me. It took them awhile. I said yes to the first one that came.”

U.S. Army Spc. Anthony Rotich, United States Armed Forces Military World Games Track and Field Men’s 5,000 meter competitor, takes the lead after seven laps during the Conseil International du Sport Militaire Track and Field Competition in Wuhan China, Oct. 24, 2019. Rotich finished second in this preliminary heat to advance to the men’s 5,000 meters finals. The 7th MWG will feature military athletes from around the world with an estimated participation of more than 100 nations and more than 10,000 participants.
U.S. Army Spc. Anthony Rotich, United States Armed Forces Military World Games Track and Field Men’s 5,000 meter competitor, takes the lead after seven laps during the Conseil International du Sport Militaire Track and Field Competition in Wuhan China, Oct. 24, 2019. Rotich finished second in this preliminary heat to advance to the men’s 5,000 meters finals. The 7th MWG will feature military athletes from around the world with an estimated participation of more than 100 nations and more than 10,000 participants. (Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Crow) VIEW ORIGINAL

That opportunity was the University of Texas, El Paso, where he became a 4-time NCAA national champion and 11-time All American. He became a USATF cross country gold medalist in 2020 and finished third in the USA Track & Field national cross-country championships in 2023 with a time of 28:49. He previously placed 13th in the 2021 Olympic Trials for the 3,000-mm steeplechase.

He’s one of only three runners in NCAA history to win the 3,000-meter steeplechase national title three years in a row.

When he won his national accolades, he said he texted his dad. While his dad was proud of him, he keeps him grounded and focused.

"I sent a text to my dad, telling him I had won nationals," he said. "My dad sent a text back saying, ‘That's nice. OK, now how is your GPA?’"

Rotich graduated college with a degree in civil engineering, won numerous academic awards and was named the NCAA Division 1 men's cross-country Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

"My parents were much happier about me winning the scholar-athlete award than they were about any of my national championships," he said.

Once he got off the phone with his father, Wilson Boit, his hero, gave him a call.

“My hero is a guy from my village,” Rotich said. Boit grew up 20 miles from Rotich’s village.

Boit won silver for Kenya at the Sydney, Australia Summer Olympic games in 2000, competing in the 3,000-meter steeplechase event. Three years earlier on Aug. 13, 1997, Boit held the world record in the event with a time of 7 minutes 59.08 seconds. The record was broken 11 days later.

Boit called Rotich to congratulate him on his victory, but also to ask about his GPA.

“He and my father value education more than athletics,” Rotich said. “He is one of the great leaders in my community.”

Spc. Anthony Rotich, a Track & Field Soldier-athlete assigned to the World Class Athlete Program, competes in the Men's 3000m Steeplechase at the 2022 USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, Eugene, Oregon, June 23-26, 2022. Rotich qualified for finals, and placed 5th.
Spc. Anthony Rotich, a Track & Field Soldier-athlete assigned to the World Class Athlete Program, competes in the Men's 3000m Steeplechase at the 2022 USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, Eugene, Oregon, June 23-26, 2022. Rotich qualified for finals, and placed 5th. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael Hunnisett) VIEW ORIGINAL
Army

After winning 63 races for the University of Texas at El Paso and 19 Conference USA championships, Rotich decided he wanted to give back to the country that helped him achieve his collegiate dreams.

“I saw how my life has been and the chance I was given to get a scholarship. I was like, ‘It’s time to give back to this community that invested in me,’” Rotich said.

He went to basic training and technical training in 2019. While in his unit, one of his sergeants told him about the World Class Athlete Program.

“It’s opened doors for me. It’s improved my running,” he said. When he started running with the other elite Soldier athletes, he was running 30 miles a week. Now he runs 90 miles a week with them. He also overcame a medical injury from the hurdles.

“I got injured, and it took me two years to fully recover but I’m happy I’m in the Army. The Army, the medical facility they have, the WCAP program, they take care of you,” he said.

Although Rotich has been an athlete on some level all his life, he said he knew the Army would help him increase his mental strength.

“When I joined the Army, I knew the Army would give me an advantage to be tough mentally,” he said. “Before I became a Soldier, I was still weak mentally. Basic training was kind of hard. WCAP and the Army gives you all the support to be the best Soldier and best athlete you can be.”

When he’s on the line with his fellow competitors, he said his military mental training gives him the edge.

“You can be a Soldier and an athlete,” he said. “When I put on my Army singlet and stand behind the line, I feel like my team’s mental toughness is stronger than the other athletes.”

Sgt. Anthony Rotich, a Track & Field Soldier-athlete and Chemical Equipment Repairer assigned to the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program is promoted to his current rank during a ceremony held on May 1 at Fort Carson, Colorado. Rotich specializes in the 3,000m steeplechase and is a 2020 USA Track and Field Cross Country National Champion.
Sgt. Anthony Rotich, a Track & Field Soldier-athlete and Chemical Equipment Repairer assigned to the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program is promoted to his current rank during a ceremony held on May 1 at Fort Carson, Colorado. Rotich specializes in the 3,000m steeplechase and is a 2020 USA Track and Field Cross Country National Champion. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Hunnisett) VIEW ORIGINAL
Support system

Rotich said he doesn’t forget where he came from or his family who supports him.

“When I look back and see where I’ve come from and where I am right now, sometimes you find yourself crying but then when you think about it; it’s like you’re telling yourself wherever I am right now, as long as I’m doing the right thing, I’ll still go far as long as I’m true to myself,” he said.

“I tell myself, ‘You have a family; they depend on you. You have a family; you depend on them. You have a support system,’” he said. “All my life, the reason I’m who I am today is because of the support system I’ve had along the way.”

As Rotich gets ready to take on the U.S. Olympic Trials in June with his support team in tow, he said he competes to represent the U.S. and Army.

“Every time I win a race and the flag is being raised, and you salute the flag, that’s the time you feel all the work you’ve put in, all the energy, all they support I’ve gotten from WCAP and the Army, and I’ll say, ‘I did what I was supposed to do. I gave the best that I had,’” Rotich said.

RELATED LINKS

Army WCAP | Sgt. Anthony Rotich

USA Track & Field | 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials — Track & Field

Olympics | Steeplechase: Rules, regulations and all you need to know