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Job Kemboi is one of top runners in the Peach Belt Conference

Job Kemboi of Clayton State has been the top runner in the Peach Belt Conference in the 10,000- and 5,000-meters this season. (Special Photo)

Job Kemboi of Clayton State has been the top runner in the Peach Belt Conference in the 10,000- and 5,000-meters this season. (Special Photo)

MORROW — To prepare for the Peach Belt Conference track and field championships, Clayton State distance runner Job Kemboi took on some stiff competition last weekend.

The sophomore competed at the Tennessee Relays, which was hosted by the University of Tennessee.

Kembo hit an NCAA Division II provisional mark at the competitive, NCAA Division I-dominated meet.

“He had a great meet in Tennessee,” Lakers coach Mike Mead said. “He has progressed really well this season.”

Kemboi, who ran in the national cross country championships this past season, will compete in both the 10,000- and 5,000-meters at the conference championship starting today at Rome’s Barron Stadium. He is the top-ranked runner in the conference in both events.

“I’ve been happy so far with the way the season has gone,” Kemboi said. “I really didn’t know what to fully expect from the season. My goal is to be able to run in the national.”

While Kemboi, a Kenya native, is hopeful of a conference championship this weekend, Mead has his sights set on a bigger accomplish. Next weekend, Kemboi will run the 10,000-meters at the Hillsdale College Gina Relays in Michigan. In that meet, he will face some stiff competition from some other top Division II runners.

“Based on previous results we have seen, this will be a very competitive meet,” Mead said. “At conference we are looking for him to use a strategy for the race. We are trying to set him up for a bigger meet in Michigan.”

Earlier this season at a meet at Emory University in Atlanta, Kemboi broke the school record in the 3.1 mile distance. In Knoxville, he made almost a 20-second improvement on his record time, running 14:33.43 and placing third overall.

Kemboi said he has spent most of the season improving his speed. A natural at cross country, he is beginning to appreciate track more this season.

Some nagging injuries hampered him last season, but Mead said he has been “pretty much” healthy this season.

“I’ve been doing some speed work, and I’ve seen a lot of progress,” Kemboi said. “This work has enabled me to do well in track. I’m making some improvements. I’ve been really determined this season.”

Part of his determination has come from competing in the national cross-country meet last November.

Kemboi was on his way to All-American status at the NCAA Division II National Cross Country Championships, but an injury got in his way.

Battling a stitch over the final half of last Saturday’s national championships race, Kemboi placed 89th at the national meet in Spokane, Wash.

A stitch is common among runners, and it is described as a sharp, localized twinge of pain just below the rib cage that usually occurs on the the right lower abdomen. It has been known to slow some athletes down to a walk until the pain subsides.

Kemboi started strong at the race and was in the top 40 early in the race of almost 250 runners but fell behind after the midway point of the 10K race. He finished with a time of 32:05.9, which was still his second fastest time in the 10K.

“Our main focus has been to keep him healthy and run conservative the next couple of weeks,” Mead said. “We are still trying to find his best event.”