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The person many people at Liberty know as Coach Cheromei, children in Kenya know as Coach Zion.
David Cheromei was hired to be an assistant coach for Liberty’s track and field and cross country teams earlier this year after five years away from the program. From 2007 to 2009, Cheromei was a graduate assistant for the team.
“Everyone on the coaching staff knows Cheromei’s heart,” track and field and cross country Head Coach Brant Tolsma said. “I was praying that the Lord would direct (me) to who he wanted to be the next assistant coach, and God kept pointing back to David. I almost felt as if it wasn’t my choice, but the Lord’s choice.”
Tolsma described Cheromei as a servant leader who is willing to do anything that needs to be done. There is no better evidence of that than Cheromei’s venture after his first stint at Liberty. After leaving the university in 2009, Cheromei returned to his native Kenya and founded an orphanage called Grace of God Children’s Project, which currently takes care of basic living and education needs of 17 children in his hometown of Eldoret.
An accomplished runner at NAIA school Virginia Intermont, winning three straight national titles in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, Cheromei almost stumbled into excelling as a runner. As a 5 year old, he would run a total of 20 miles a day just to go to school.
“I came from a background where you struggle, (so) you learn to multitask,” Cheromei said. “I learned to prioritize from a young age and all these things prepared me to balance everything.”
While it was a difficult decision for Cheromei to come back to Liberty, he feels as much at home in Lynchburg as anywhere.
“‘Training Champions for Christ’ — you do not find another place where that is the first goal,” Cheromei said.
Some coaches have a disciplinarian philosophy on coaching, but Cheromei is much more relaxed in his views.
“(I tell my runners to) have fun for God,” Cheromei said. “Don’t be too serious (that) you forget that it’s not about what you do, but it’s about God. It’s all about God, so just have fun.”
Cheromei also teaches the children involved in his project back home the basics of running, where he became known as Coach Zion.
No matter if it is Lynchburg or Kenya, Cheromei hopes to change people’s lives in more ways than one.
Tichenor is the sports editor.
Dixon is a sports reporter.