only his first few weeks as a Division I cross country runner,
Jordan Chipangama is already turning heads as one of the top
finishers for the second-ranked Northern Arizona Lumberjacks this
a native of Lusaka, Zambia, made his way to NAU via Central Arizona
College after being discovered by the junior college’s
coach. He had run cross country just two years in Zambia
before competing in the World Junior Championships, but his times
were good enough to get noticed by a coach halfway across the
called me and asked me if I was interested in going to school here
(in the U.S.),” said Chipangama. “I said,
‘why not?’ I was very interested to come
were a lot of adjusts to make after moving to the Grand Canyon
State, but Chipangama was quick to make the transition.
“Everything was different,” said Chipangama.
“The type of weather was different. I came here and it
was 100-plus degrees and back home, the hottest it will get is 85
degrees. All the food is different is from home. School
was another process, and a big transition.”
Central Arizona, Chipangama won the JC national championship in the
1,500 meters in the 2009 outdoor meet, and garnered Junior College
Regional Runner of The Year in 2008 after leading the school to the
2008 cross country regional championship.
Chipangama captured the attention of the coaches at NAU, but it was
not until he ran against the Lumberjacks last year that they
started to recruit him.
already knew about him, but last year at an event in San Diego,
Central Arizona College was there and we raced them,” said
head coach Eric Heins. “Our head track coach at the
time was watching the race and he saw this kid coming in behind our
No. 1 runner. After the race, he said we needed to talk to
him because he looks pretty good. The fact that he was right
behind our No. 1 runner proved that he could run cross
Chipangama had competed against every level at junior college, he
came to one of the top cross country programs in the nation with a
lot of confidence.
though I was at a junior college, I found the competition was
really steep there as well, and I learned a lot,” said
Chipangama. “Moving to a Division I school there was
not a big transition. I just brought my knowledge from the
junior college – there are some good guys out there, just
like at Division I schools.”
originally thought it might take Chipangama a bit longer to make an
immediate impact, but the junior has already won two races this
season, taking first in the Aztec Invitational and following it up
with a victory and a season-best time of 23:44 at the Cowboy
Jamboree versus teams such as No. 4 Oklahoma State, No. 9 William
& Mary and Division II’s top-ranked Adams
thought Jordan would take a year to develop into a big cross
country guy for us and I was looking at him as being our fifth
runner,” said Heins. “But, he’s already
shown that he can be one of those top two or top three guys,
consistently. He brings something that our No. 1 runner David
McNeill also has – very good foot speed and endurance.
Jordan is the same kind of runner, so now we have two guys in any
given workout trading leads and working together to help each other
McNeill will make his season debut at Pre-Nationals on Oct. 17
after representing Australia at the Track & Field World
Championships in August.
who has a better day that day,” said Chipangama of his
success in the last two meets. “It just happened in the
last two meets that I stood out. There are better athletes on
the team. We really don’t know who is the best
72-team field at Pre-Nationals will be the toughest that
Lumberjacks has faced this season as it includes four of the top
five ranked teams in nation, and Heins is hoping Chipangama focuses
on getting the experience under his belt.
don’t think Jordan has had the chance to run in a meet quite
this big,” said Heins. “Going to the Jamboree at
Oklahoma State was a good opener to see that many people on the
starting line, but going to pre-nationals is spectacular because so
many people are lined up and there are so many good runners.
You have to go there and get the experience of running against the
best in order to be ready for the actual NCAA Championships in
is also motivated to excel in the classroom, and is a pre-med
major, who dreams of becoming a doctor.
very driven and one of the reasons he came here is because of the
academic major,” said Heins. “He’s been
really working hard to get caught up as a transfer from a junior
college. Some days he’s not able to train with the team
because he’s got so many classes and quizzes and exams to
do. He does lead a very busy lifestyle, but at the same time
you can see how well he’s doing in cross country –
he’s also that driven in the classroom.”
Last season, the Lumberjacks finished second of 41 teams, and
McNeill claimed a second place individually.
don’t want to become too big-headed because we’ve been
mentioned as one of the best,” said Chipangama.
“We just want to go out there and compete and see what we can
strategy’s this weekend will differ with the men looking to
have three to four guys that can finish in the top 25,” Heins
said. “We want to put ourselves into that position where we
can finish that high.”
race is being held in Terre Haute, Ind., and will be streamed live
on Flotrack.org. The men’s event starts at 8 a.m.