Get Ready For A Big Indoor Season From Darius Kipyego

* St. Raphael Academy's Darius Kipyego finished fourth in the 800m at NBNI last year

Photo Credit: USA Today Photos

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A statement can be made in various ways on the track. Some happen quickly, maybe over the course of one meet. Others might take time, like the span of a season.

Recently, Darius Kipyego made his over the first two weeks of the indoor track and field season. 

The St. Raphael Academy (RI) product wasted little time generating a buzz in December, much like the way he ended his outdoor track and field season with the second fastest sophomore 800m time in high school history at the Pan American U20 Championships, when he scored a silver medal with a time of 1:49.46 -- Michael Granville owned the class record in 1:48.98. 

Within 13 days, he produced two Rhode Island state records, two US No. 1s and the No. 23 best performance at 600 meters all-time. 

Not bad. 

"It shows how much confidence we have this year," Kipyego said Friday, referencing the work he put in with his coaches over the cross country season. "The training has gone very well so far." 

Kipyego wanted to nab that Rhode Island state 800m record quickly. It happened in his first race of the season, on December 14, at Boston University's annual Mini-Meet series. He went 1:52.55, scoring a new career best and surpassing Conor Murphy's former mark of 1:53.25 -- which was achieved by the Classical senior last February. 

He went after it, in due part he said, because the distance has become a sort of duel between the two runners. Kipyego and Murphy both broke 1:54 last season, with Kipyego setting the state record last December (1:53.71), only to have Murphy break it in February.

Both returned to the distance in March at New Balance Nationals Indoor, though neither upped the ante -- Kipyego was fourth and behind the record, Murphy in fifth. 

Nearly two weeks later, on December 27, Kipyego returned to the same indoor track at the Boston Holiday Challenge to put down a 1:19.65 in the 600m, a new Rhode Island state record time, a US No. 1 effort and the 23rd best performance at the distance. The time accounted for a 0.77 second improvement from his top mark a year ago and a nearly 3-second improvement year-over-year in December. 

"We wanted to get some good times out of the way," he said. 

But following an outrageously successful outdoor season and significant base-building over the fall, Kipyego said he was ready to run fast by December. 

"I PR'ed by over 40 seconds in the 5K," he said of his fall. "So the cross country season really helped." 

Kipyego and his coaches knew that if he wanted to build off the strong finish to his sophomore campaign that he needed an approach that would build upon that foundation. That meant an increase in mileage, with his range going anywhere from 50 miles to a high of 60 over the season. 

By November, he finished sixth at the Rhode Island State Championships in a 5K PR of 15:56.43 -- his first effort under 16 minutes. But beyond that performance was something more, a consistency that showed he was building a strong aerobic base: He hit sub-16:15 on four other occasions -- he didn't break 17 minutes once as a sophomore. 

"My team really helped pushing me through," Kipyego said. "Our team has gotten a lot better; we've been getting up there. But the team's been helping me get to where I am today." 

By December, the work was showing. 

But it should only be the start of a much grander season in 2020. 

Kipyego has been invited to run in the elite boys mile at the New Balance Grand Prix on January 25. He hasn't race the mile since 2018, when as a freshman he went 4:33 indoors and 4:29 outdoors. 

He's hoping for a big performance there. 

"This year we really want to open it up," he said. "We want to get a mile PR, but I also want to show some colleges I can go up to the mile." 

There are also planned attempts at lowering his state records in the 600m and 800m. Only two runners have broken 1:18 all-time for 600m.

Kipyego will need to break 1:19 first -- fun fact: The New England Championship record is 1:18.31.

Mainly, though, he's eying up another attempt at sub-1:50 in his specialty race, the 800m. 

Crazy enough as it sounds, Kipyego wasn't even in the fast section of the race at New Balance Nationals Indoor last year. Hassan Abdullahi, a runner from Ontario, Canada, won the race in 1:51.91.

Kipyego still managed to finish fourth overall. 

But that December race got him his qualifier. Abdullahi will be back in this year's installment, as will Murphy. National-elite half-milers like AJ Green and Brandon Miller could also be there. 

"My coach and I have talked about it," Kipyego said. "The 800 is a focus and a big goal for this season. We've been saying that since Day 1." 

Maybe, then, his performances in December were just the beginning of something greater. Those statements? Hold on for a few more. 

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