Wycliffe Kinyamal wins the 800m at the Kenyan Championships (© AFP / Getty Images)
There were upsets, surprises and excitement at the Kenyan Championships on Friday and Saturday (24-25) as Athletics Kenya selected its teams for the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 and the Commonwealth Games.
The men’s 800m, one of the most anticipated – and competitive – events of the championships, was won by Wycliffe Kinyamal in 1:43.55. World indoor silver medallist Noah Kibet led for most of the way but was overtaken in the last 150 metres. Kinyamal and world U20 champion Emmanuel Wanyonyi came from behind to secure the first two positions, Wanyonyi finishing second in 1:44.01 as Kibet faded to eighth place.
Olympic 800m champion Emmanuel Korir didn’t compete in the two-lap event but has earned selection for the 400m and 800m for the World Championships.
Mary Moraa emerged as one of the star performers of the championships. The Olympic semifinalist smashed her PB when winning the 800m on the first day of action, clocking 1:57.45 to finish comfortably ahead of Olympic 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon (1:58.18). Newly crowned African champion Jarinter Mawia was third in 2:00.36.
The next day, Moraa returned to her original event, the 400m, and scorched to a national record of 50.84.
World leader Nicholas Kimeli took the men’s 5000m title in 13:28.76. Jacob Krop, who finished second to Kimeli in Rome earlier this month when the duo ran 12:46.33 and 12:46.79, finished second here too in 13:29.20. Cornelius Kemboi was third in 13:29.90.
Two-time world 5000m champion Hellen Obiri stepped up to the 10,000m and won in 31:49.55 ahead of Sheila Chepkirui (31:50.13) and world silver medallist Margaret Chelimo (31:50.22). Irene Cheptai was fourth in 31:52.03.
Having missed out on a top-two automatic qualifying spot in the 10,000m, Chelimo tried her luck in the 5000m on Saturday. She led for almost the first 2000m before Eva Cherono moved into the lead and pushed the pace. Sarah Jepleting then emerged over the final two laps and kicked away to win in 15:05.24.
Beatrice Chebet came through for second (15:07.74) as Chelimo finished third again. Chelimo, however, was eventually named for both the 5000m and 10,000m on Kenya’s World Championships team.
Conseslus Kipruto’s third-place finish in the 3000m steeplechase was a reassuring step on his road to defending his world title in Oregon. Amos Serem won the race in 8:17.03 from Abraham Kibiwot (8:17.79) and Kipruto (8:18.21).
The two big names in the women’s 3000m steeplechase – world record-holder Beatrice Chepkoech and 2015 world champion Hyvin Kiyeng – were non-starters at the championships. Jackline Chepkoech, a relative newcomer to the steeplechase, got the better of Celliphine Chespol to win by more than 10 seconds in 9:21.84. Purity Kirui was third in at 9:36.29.
Winnie Chebet benefited from the absence of Kipyegon in the 1500m as she won in 4:11.20. Edinah Jebitok, who had done most of the front running, finished second in 4:11.87.
After a relatively chilly and cloudy morning, the weather turned warm and sunny just before the men’s 10,000m on Saturday afternoon
As the race progressed, a leading pack of Edward Zakayo, Kibiwott Kandie, Waithaka Mburu, Daniel Ebenyo, Daniel Mateiko and Rhonex Kipruto would eventually remain with a bout 1000 metres to go. Despite appearing to lose ground on the leaders with about 500 metres to go, Kandie produced his trademark devastating kick on the last lap to win the title in 27:33.57. Waithaka took second (27:34.01) while Mateiko finished third (27:34.62). Kandie doesn’t have the World Championships qualifying standard in this event, but he will instead represent Kenya at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Abel Kipsang edged Timothy Cheruiyot in the men’s 1500m as four runners battled it out in one of the closest contests of the championships. Kipsang won in 3:34.55 just 0.04 ahead of Cheruiyot. Kumari Taki and Raynold Cheruiyot followed in 3:34.73 and 3:34.77 respectively.
In the men’s 100m, the final event of the championships, Ferdinand Omanyala won comfortably in 10.03 ahead of Samuel Imeta (10.25).
Justin Lagat for World Athleics