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Inside the UA Athletes: Running passion unites siblings

Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Arizona cross country and track star Robert Cheseret and his sister Irine Lagat share an apartment minutes from campus. Lagat is also on Arizona's cross country and track teams.
By Roman Veytsman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
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Growing up in a big family was nothing short of fun for Robert Cheseret and his sister Irine Lagat.

They played games together, helped each other with chores, watched after the family animals and most importantly, they ran. From the time they were little, their parents, who were former runners, instilled in them a love for running.

Lagat's profile says "(I) love running, it is in me."

Cheseret and Lagat, the eighth and ninth of 10 siblings, respectively, have followed in the footsteps of the rest of their family.

Cheseret said growing up in Kaptel, Kenya, he watched most of his siblings run, and that's how he became motivated.

"Everybody's running, so I just thought, I can also run," he said, laughing.

Living on a farm, they did not have all the luxuries of modern training. Instead, they took long walks to school, and if they were late, they would run to keep from being punished.

"I walked barefoot until I was about in grade six," Cheseret said. "I was running barefoot, going to school. It might (have helped me), made my legs a little stronger."

Running barefoot may seem dangerous to some, but it comes nowhere near one incident in their hometown.

"We have many wild animals back home," Cheseret said. "One lion sneaked (out) from the zoo and accidentally came out and came to our village. It came very close to our home. They had to come and catch it. I got to see it, but it was very risky because it's very wild. We didn't get close to it (at first), but after they touched it, we got close to it."There are no lions in their apartment in Tucson, but there is a large collection of trophies, belonging to the accomplished Cheseret, that cover much of the area near the television. While his brother Bernard won a bronze medal in the 2000 Summer Olympics, Robert won the 2004 cross country Athlete of the Year honors in the Pacific 10 Conference and holds the Arizona record in the 5,000-meter.

The apartment, which is decorated with Wildcat track and field posters and the Kenyan national flag, is about three miles off campus, and of course they sometimes run to school. "Maybe 15 minutes," Cheseret said of the time it takes them to run to campus.

Not bad. But like any runner, he'd probably like to get there faster.


On coming to Arizona:

Lagat: "My coach is coaching my brother, and he came all the way to Kenya to recruit me. I knew the coach here at U of A and my brother was in Tucson, so I knew some people already."

On being far from home and family:

Cheseret: "Emotionally, it's tough. We talk to them on the phone. We miss them and I know they miss us. It's a little tough, but it's better because we get to talk to them on the phone, and that makes it a little easier."

On having people from all over the world in the Arizona sports programs:

Cheseret: "It's like a family. On our team, everyone is friendly, so you don't feel isolated. You don't feel like, 'Oh, I'm from Kenya.' You feel like you are back home because everyone is nice and friendly."

On growing up in a big family:

Cheseret: "You have a lot of responsibilities. The women had to make sure they cooked and did household stuff. As men, we had to make sure we did the outside stuff, like farming and looking after the animals."

On the future:

Cheseret: "I want to run professionally after I graduate. I still want to train with my coach and also train with my brother here. Hopefully, the next Olympics, I'll be there, 2008."

On adjusting to the English language:

Cheseret:"We had been speaking English in high school, but the tough thing was getting the accent. When we came here, the accent was completely different, so that was the toughest thing. After a while, we started to understand the accent and then it got better."

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