Yomif Kejelcha in the boys 3000m at the IAAF World Youth Championships 2013 (© Getty Images)
National junior 1500m record-holder Dawit Seyoum and world youth 3000m champion Yomif Kejelcha lead the Ethiopian team going to the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships in Eugene, USA, later this month and have good prospects of striking gold at Oregon 2014.
The squad also includes 2014 Dubai Marathon winner Tsegaye Mekonnen, who steps down to compete over the 10,000m, and Senbere Teferi, the world youth silver medallist over 1500m.
Each edition of the IAAF World Junior Championships is an adventure for Ethiopian athletics fans hoping for an early glimpse of a prolific youngsters who might gone to dominate their event at senior level.
Haile Gebrselassie, a 5000m and 10,000m double 22 years ago in Seoul; Kenenisa Bekele a 5000m silver medal in Santiago de Chile in 2000; Meseret Defar, 3000m and 5000m double in Kingston, Jamaica, in 2002; and Tirunesh Dibaba, a 5000m silver behind her great rival Defar in Kingston are just a few of the country’s world junior medallists who have gone on to achieve Olympic and IAAF World Championships success.
However, apart from Ibrahim Jeylan, who won the men’s 10,000m title in 2006 before going on to become the world champion over the same distance in 2011, recent protégés have yet to scale such dizzying heights on the track, generally choosing instead to focus their energy on the road-running circuit.
Yomif Kejelcha, however, will be travelling to Eugene to reverse this trend.
After emerging on the international scene last year with a powerful victory in the boys’ 3000m at the IAAF World Youth Championships, the 16-year-old has continued his meteoric rise in 2014 clocking 7:36.28, a world youth best. In the USA, Kejelcha joins teammate Yasin Haji in the 5000m.
The tall and languid runner may have shunned away from the lures of the road so far, but his teammate Tsegaye Mekonnen returns to the championships after experiencing considerable success in the marathon.
The 19-year-old, who finished fifth over 5000m in Barcelona two years ago, is full of confidence after his 2:04:32 world junior best when winning in the 2014 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon. In Eugene, he will join Yihunelegne Adane in the 10,000m.
Seyoum and Teferi highlight the women’s team
Ethiopian athletics has seen the emergence of prolific middle-distance runners in the 800m and 1500m over the past three years with the likes of world 800m champion Mohammed Aman and multiple world indoor record-holder Genzebe Dibaba, with both moving up from youth and junior competition to achieve global success as seniors.
The country’s recent exploits in the middle distances should continue in Eugene thanks to another crop of talented youngsters led by Dawit Seyoum and Senbere Teferi.
Seyoum, who will celebrate her 18th birthday on the last day of the championships, caught the attention last month with her impressive 3:59.53 Ethiopian junior record in Marrakech, Morocco.
She will be joined in the 1500m by Gudaf Tsegaye, who comes to the championships with a solid personal best of 4:02.83.
Ethiopia’s strength in depth in the women’s 1500m is among the reasons why Teferi, bronze medallist in Barcelona two years ago, will move up to the 3000m in her return to the championships.
The 19-year-old has a number of impressive domestic honours including the 5000m national title in 2013 and two 5km road victories against high quality fields.
African junior 3000m steeplechase champion Weyneshet Ansa, world junior cross-country bronze medallist Alemitu Haroye (5000m), and world youth 800m silver medallist Dureti Edao are among the other names to watch in the team.
The 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships will be held in Eugene, USA, between 22-27 July.
Elshadai Negash (with the assistance of Bizuayehu Wagaw) for the IAAF
Ethiopia’s team for Oregon 2014
100m & 200m: Amanuel Abebe
800m: Mamush Lencha, Jena Umar
1500m: Chalachew Shemeles, Aregawi Berhane
5000m: Yomif Kejelcha, Yasin Haji
10,000m: Tsegaye Mekonnen, Yihunilign Adane
3000m steeplechase: Hailemariyam Amare, Meresa Kahsay
100m: Tegest Tamangnu
400m: Genet Lire
800m: Zeyituna Mohamed, Dureti Edao
1500m: Dawit Seyaum, Gudaf Tsegaye
3000m: Senbere Teferi, Etagegn Woldu (reserve - Berhan Demiesa)
5000m: Alemitu Hawi, Alemitu Haroye
3000m steeplechase: Weyneshet Ansa
400m hurdles: Meaza Kebede