Opening lap of the men's 1500m at the World Championships trials in Nairobi (© Stafford Ondego)
Ronald Kwemoi clocked an impressive 3:30.89 Kenyan all-comers record in the 1500m to highlight the second and final day of the Kenyan World Championships Trials in Nairobi on Saturday (24).
Kwemoi's performance was the second fastest in the world this year, but given Nairobi's 1800m above sea level altitude, it was a run that will make his fellow competitors take note.
Defending world champion Asbel Kiprop, who has a wild card entry to the IAAF World Championships London 2017, set up a very fast pace before he withdrew from the pack less than two laps into the contest.
World leader Timothy Cheruiyot decided to take the leading duties with rapidly-rising Justus Soget, 2015 world silver medallist Elijah Manangoi and the 21-year-old Kwemoi, the world U20 record holder, not far behind.
Kwemoi, who is based in Iten and trains under the guidance of coach Renato Canova, used a devastating last 200 metres to win convincingly, easing up towards the finish. Cheruiyot was second in 3:31.05 and Elijah Manangoi third in 3:32.03.
Kamworor outkicks Karoki to take 10,000m title
The day's action began with the men's 10,000m.
In very warm conditions, the pack of 20 athletes went out at 26:50 pace, crossing the first two kilometres in a blasting 5:21.8 with 2011 World Championship finalist Peter Kirui and 2014 world junior bronze medallist Nicholas Kosimbei setting the tempo.
The pace reduced significantly however after 3000 metres with midway reach in 13:46.6 with a group of six still in contention, led by two-time world championship finalist Bedan Karoki and Geoffrey Kamworor, the two-time world cross country champion.
With 22:13 on the clock at the 8000-metre mark, a decisive move by Karoki narrowed the lead group with four remaining in contention for the victory, staying together until the last lap.
Kamworor used a 56.5 final 400 metres to cross the finish line first in 27:35.91. Karoki was second in 27:40.32 with Paul Tanui, the 2016 Olympic silver medallist, third in 27:42.63 to book the final ticket to London.
The trio will represent Kenya in 10,000m for the third time in a row after the 2015 Beijing World Championship and the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Obiri and Kipyegon cruise
The women's 5000m was next on the programme and featured a dominant performance by Olympic 5000m silver medallist Hellen Obiri.
With a small field of nine athletes, the race opened with a slow 3:28 first kilometre. Obiri then pushed the pace and by 3000 metres the pack was reduced to five with Margaret Chelimo, Lilian Kasait, Sheila Chepkirui and Hyvin Kiyeng following in that order
Obiri never looked back en route to her 15:28.89 victory with Chelimo taking second in 15:30.71 and and Africa 5000m champion Sheila Chepkirui third in 15:33.57 to fill out the London-bound team. Chepkirui will still have to achieve the qualifying standard of 15:22.00 to confirm her place.
The women's 1500m saw Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon win by more than a second in 4:05.74. Winnie Chebet, her closest opponent, was second in 4:06.78 while the rest of the field was led by Selah Jepleting, third in 4:09.45. Jepleting, like Chepkirui in the 5000m, will have to wait and run under the qualifying standard of 4:07.50 to secure her London ticket.
Some casualties occurred during the race with emerging talent Judy Kiyeng taking a fall during the last lap when she was running in third position.
Top steeplechasers all London-bound
In the 3000m steeplechase, Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto took a convincing victory in 8:19.75 to qualify for his third consecutive World Championships.
Veteran Brimin Kipruto was just a step behind in second clocking 8:19.87 and will therefore participate in his sixth world championship in London! Jairus Birech, the 2015 Diamond League winner, claimed the last spot in the national team with 8:20.01 good for third.
Defending world champion Ezekiel Kemboi was given a wild card on Friday and will join the trio in London.
On the women's side, national record holder Celliphine Chespol, a form 4 student at Riruta secondary school, took the women's race in 9:34.03, finishing hand-in-hand with National Police champion Beatrice Chepkoech.
Commonwealth Games Champion Purity Kirui ended third in 9:38.47 while defending world champion Hyvin Kiyeng who was fifth in the 5000m was given a wild card to join them.
Shock 800m win for Korir
The day's final event, the men's 800m, was full of spice. World U20 champion Kipyegon Bett took the lead from the gun and after crossing the bell in 51.0 maintained his position until the last few metres of the race. US-based student Emmanuel Korir, who is coached by 1988 Olympic champion Paul Ereng, overtook Bett in the waning stages to win his first national trials in a fast 1:43.87. Bett was second in 1:44.07 while Korir's teamate, Michael Saruni, was third in 1:44.61.
Though Saruni was third, defending world champion David Rudisha and Diamond League winner Ferguson Rotich were named to the national team joining Bett and Korir.
In the women race, Margaret Wambui defeated a reduced field of five in 1:59.63 with 2013 world champion Eunice Sum and Emily Cherotich taking second and third in 2:00.03 and 2:00.18 respectively.
The highlight on the infield came courtesy of world javelin champion Julius Yego who reached 87.97m, a season's best by more than five metres to elevate the Olympic silver medallist to No. 5 on the season's world list.
1. Julius YEGO 87.97m
2. Alex KIPROTICH 75.67m
3. Gilbert KIBET 65.16m