Kenya’s plan to have more athletes taking up the sprint and field events saw some light today after Winnie Chepngetich jumped 6.20m in the women’s Long Jump event to become the only participant in the field events to make it to the Kenyan team to the world under 20 championships in Cali.
Chepngetich was part of the young athletes who went to Miramas, France for the training on the sprints and field events, and her success today was a good testament that the program is yielding fruits.
All the eight gold medals from last year’s world under 20 championships event in Nairobi came from the middle and long-distance track events and Chepngetich will be seen to be opening doors to new opportunities for the young athletes in Kenyan as she heads to Cali.
In the two-day national trials that happened at the Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi Heristone Wanyonyi and Purity Chepkirui came back to seek tickets to go out and defend their world titles. The two won their respective events. The other defending champions; Jackline Chepkoech, Emmanuel Wanyonyi and Amos Serem will represent the country at the senior championships in Oregon and at the Commonwealth Games and could not turn up for the trials. Muthoni Gateri and Vincent Keter have matured into senior categories.
The reigning race walking champion, Heristone Wanyonyi was the first to form Kenya’s team to Cali on the first day of the trials after walking 43:16.1 in the men’s 10,000m walking race. On the second day, it was Margaret Gati who stopped the clock at 49:14.80 in the women’s 10,000m event. This was also the first event of the day.
Purity Chepkirui won the women’s 1500m that build up into an exciting final lap as Chepkirui and Brenda Chebet battled for the win well ahead of the rest of the field. Chebet had led in the last two laps of the race with Chepkirui coming gradually from behind to settle behind her as they went past the bell.
“This will be my last world Under 20 championships and my aim will be to defend my title before moving to the senior category from next year,” Chepkirui said.
The women’s 3000m steeplechase field was stretched early into a single file by Faith Cherotich, the 2021 world under 20 bronze medalist, who led the race all the way to win it in 9:18.26 almost 100m ahead of her next competitor Diana Chepkemoi.
“I thank my coach Bernard Ronoh for the training. The competition today did not feel tough, and that is why I decided to run alone at the front. The coach had advised me to apply speed in the last laps. I am going to target gold in Colombia,” said Cherotich.
There was an upset in the women’s 400m as little-known Damaris Nduleve ran 53.70 to win the women’s 400m, edging out Sylvia Chelangat, the world silver medalist from last year’s world under 20 championships in Nairobi. Chelangat took second.
But the upset was greater for Benson Kiplagat. The 2021 world under 20 champion had stepped to the front with 6 laps to go in the men’s 5000m final, but before long he suddenly slowed down before stepping out of the track. Samuel Kibati Wanjiru, a Japan-based runner, emerged victorious in the race after sprinting away in the last 200m.
“It is a dream to finish first and get an opportunity to represent my country in Cali. I know we can strategize well as Kenya to defend our title at the world championships,” Kibati said.
After controlling the better part of the last half of the men’s 1500m race, Daniel Kimaiyo then produced a devastating kick in the last 300m to run an amazing 3:36.08 to win it. Daniel Koshen had been the first to step to the front before giving way to Kimaiyo to do more of the pacing duties with less than two laps to go.
“I was racing to get a good time, that is why I was not minding the rest of the field. Also, I wanted to make my training mates Emmanuel Wanyonyi and Levi Kibet proud. Before the race, they told me not to let them down,” said Kimaiyo after the race.
In the men’s 400m, Elkana Chemelil who had appeared almost parallel to Sebastian Sinoti on the last bend extended his lead on the homestretch to run 46.22 winning the race ahead of Sinoti.
Women’s 3000m final was won by Betty Chelangat after a battle among a trio of her, Joyline Chepkemoi -who began the surge with about four laps to go- and Nancy Cherop. Chelangat appeared to have reserved some energy for the last lap as she quickly extended her gap in the last 200m before winning the race in 8:51.34, Cherop followed while Chepkemoi finished third.
An emotional and almost tearful Chelangat said that she was happy to make the team and hopes to win gold in Cali.
After a competitive field of five runners together at the bell, Michael Temoi would eventually stride away in the last 150 meters to win the men’s 3000m race in 7:50.
In a show of great raw talent, Nelly Jepchirchir established her name as one of the probable gold medal prospects for Kenya in Cali after she easily won the women’s 800m final in 2:02. Brian Kiptum won the men’s version of the race.
Emmanuel Wafula was another one of the surprise winners of the day as he won the men’s 3000m steeplechase race at 8:32.10.