UTEP track and field star Lilian Koech qualified for the NCAA Championships in the women’s 800 meters at Regionals last weekend, but Koech will not compete for a title at the finals in Austin, Texas.
Koech is a student in UTEP’s pharmacy school. The rigorous nature of the program makes it difficult to miss any time. According to a UTEP spokesperson, since Koech would have to leave class for a few days to run at the national meet, the school gave her a choice: run in the meet, but withdraw from the course and re-enroll during the university’s 2019 Wintermester, or skip the meet entirely and keep her standing with the pharmacy program.
It was a very tough decision for Koech, but one she made on her own to put her academic future first. On Saturday, after KTSM’s initial reporting on Koech’s choice, UTEP track and field head coach Mika Laaksonen released this statement on Koech’s decision to KTSM:
UTEP initially told KTSM that Koech would have to pay for the course in question if she withdrew. The academic side of the university was covering the cost of the course in the summer, but with the start of a new fiscal year at the beginning of the new academic calendar, the pharmacy program would no longer be able to cover it. However, Laaksonen said athletics would have been able to provide funding on behalf of Koech, had she chosen to take the course during the Wintermester, so the course in question would’ve been paid for.
KTSM reached out to the UTEP School of Pharmacy and heard back from Founding Dean Jose Rivera on Saturday afternoon.
“We are always going to work with a student to provide accommodations, and in this particular case we presented two options and we were planning on supporting the student to do it in December,“ Rivera said. “It was up to the student ultimately to make the final decision.“
Koech wrapped up her five-year collegiate career with a strong showing at the NCAA Regional meet.