Steve Guymon, head track coach, was not sure what to expect when he was told a high school student in Kenya was interested in running for Harding. Guymon knew nothing about freshman Nehemia Too. Based on recommendations from those close to the runner, Guymon decided to sign him for the 2017-18 season. Due to the embassy holding the runner back last fall, Too joined the track team in January and had a mere two weeks before the first meet. Guymon quickly saw how special Too was.
“Watching him run the first few weeks had me go, ‘Whoa, this guy’s pretty good,’” Guymon said. “I think he’s one of the best runners Harding will ever have. I think he can accomplish a lot of things.”
Too arrived at Harding in top physical shape due to extensive training after his high school graduation. Too said that a promise he made to Guymon kept him motivated to train back home.
“I promised coach that I would be the best athlete for him and take him to nationals, and that’s what kept me working hard in Kenya, because I knew I made a promise and I wanted to deliver that promise,” Too said. “I came to the U.S. to do my best and go to nationals.”
Guymon said that adding Too to the team was a good wake-up call for his other runners to push themselves even harder.
“Runners get in slumps and may think they’re working hard when they’re not, and all of a sudden a guy like Nehemia shows up and they’re forced to try and keep up,” Guymon said. “I can see things with the group that they’re running a little quicker than they used to and their attitudes are different. He’s created a lot of pride with our distance group and our team.”
Senior distance runner Lucas Goodspeed said that the sky is the limit for Too during his college career.
“I don’t think we know how fast he can go,” Goodspeed said. “Every race he’s ran so far, he’s finished really fast. Typically, that means that there is something left at the end, so it’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here over the next four years.”
Goodspeed saw a glimpse of how fast Too could be when he broke a school record on March 10 at the NCAA Division II Indoor National Championship in the 3,000 meters race. Too finished second with a time of 8 minutes and 1.34 seconds, breaking the previous time by five seconds. Guymon said he could not believe it.
“I wasn’t sure that 8:06 record would ever get broken because the guy (Artur Kern) that held it was from Poland, and it may still be the national record for Poland,” Guymon said. “If he would’ve finished in the top eight, I would have been proud of that. What he did was even beyond that.”
Although Too broke a school record, he said he was not content with his performance.
“I’m not used to losing the game, so when I lose, I don’t feel very comfortable,” Too said. “I know there’s something I have not done, so I have to come back and correct that mistake.”
Too’s next opportunity to win came six days later at the Rhodes Invitational in Memphis, Tennessee, his first outdoor meet. Too continued to turn heads after he finished second in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 9 minutes and 10.32 seconds, the fifth-fastest time in Harding NCAA history. Guymon said that being on the same page with Too will be key for their future together.
“I’m still learning what he can handle,” Guymon said. “I think he thinks sometimes that I’m not giving him enough. He and I are in the process of finding things out about each other so we can get to that point and hopefully by outdoor nationals we’ll be at that point.”
Too will run his first home meet tomorrow, as Harding hosts the Harding Invitational starting at 10 a.m.