Dennis Mbuta shatters both 600m, mile records

Courtesy / GVSU Lakers

Courtesy / GVSU Lakers

Rosemary Booher, Staff Writer

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Grand Valley State University’s Dennis Mbuta is a record-breaking junior on the indoor track-and-field team who, last season, set the GVSU 800-meter record and has continued his streak of excellence by setting two more records this season. First, he broke the 600 meter with a time of 1:18.93 during the Gladstein Invitational, and then two weeks later went on to set another for the mile at 4:03.84 when at the Meyo Meet.

Mbuta attributes part of his success to those around him that push him forward to compete at a higher level. When he first became a Laker, Mbuta didn’t think that he was going to be one of the record-breaking runners, but he slowly began to gain confidence thanks to his coaching staff and mentors that have helped him.

“Coming into GVSU, I didn’t see myself getting anywhere close to those times, but with the great coaching and support, I’m really honored to be on the record boards,” Mbuta said. “Coming into this season, the 600-meter record was one that I knew I could get, but the mile one just came from competing hard and not worrying about time. The previous mile record holder, Wuoi Mach, was my mentor, so to be able to follow his ways and get the record means a whole lot more.”

This Laker didn’t always have his sights set on holding track records. Originally, Mbuta had focused his athletic career on soccer during high school, but eventually branched out to the track and field team as well as cross country.

“I started running back in sixth grade, but took a long four year break and started back up in tenth grade,” Mbuta said. “Running to me was a side thing while I mainly focused on soccer, until my senior year, where I did both cross country and track and field.”

Along with the support that Mbuta has received from his coaches and fellow players, he is also motivated by his cousin who he sees as a role model. 

“I really don’t look up to any professional, but if I had to say anyone it would have to be my cousin Justin Kiprotich, (who) is now a professional runner and a former Michigan State runner,” Mbuta said. “Just watching all the hard work he put in during highschool pay off by having his schooling paid for and being a finished runner up in D1 was the thing that did it for me.”

Mbuta’s motivations also come from his past experiences — both his successes and failures. He uses those experiences to learn and push himself forward so that he can improve.

“Last year has to be one of my greatest track accomplishments, finishing second at the indoor nationals 800-meter,” Mbuta said.”The previous year, I missed the finals by one spot, which made me more hungry to be back and compete. Missing the finals that year gave me a feeling that I never want to have again, but the seconds place finish indoor and the fourth outdoor proves that I could compete with the best.”

Mbuta plans to compete with the best at nationals again this year, which is his ultimate goal of the season. 

“The biggest goal for me this year is to compete for a national title in the Distance Medley Relay or an individual event,” Mbuta said. “To achieve this goal, I’ll have to just keep doing the same thing that I am currently doing and keep trusting the coaching staff at Grand Valley. Without the coaching staff, I’d never see myself in this position competing against the best runners in the country.”

Mbuta is back on the track for the GVSU Big Meet on Friday, Feb. 14. at the Kelly Family Sports Center where he will continue his record-breaking season.