Agnes Tirop leads Irene Cheptai in the 10,000m at the Kenyan world championships trials in Nairobi (© Stafford Ondego)
Kenya’s crème de la crème of distance-running talents were in action on the first of the two-day Kenyan World Championships Trials in Nairobi on Friday (23).
The last two IAAF world cross country champions Agnes Tirop and Irene Cheptai produced the highlight of the day in the women’s 10,000m.
With a small field of eight athletes starting the race and the top three automatically qualifying for the team bound for the IAAF World Championship London 2017, many expected the race to be a tactical affair. In fact it was the opposite.
Starting in cool and humid conditions, Tirop, the world cross country champion in 2015 and Cheptai, her successor, were side by side from the start, only allowing Alice Aprot, the 2017 world cross silver medallist, to lead the early laps.
By midway, reached in 16:15, the field was already down to four with Veronica Nyaruai and Aprot trying to hang on with the two leaders. Passing 8000 metres in 25:55, the two Iten-based training partners Tirop and Cheptai were all alone, extending their lead over a fading Aprot.
Crossing the bell in 30:53, Jebet overtook Cheptai with 150 metres to go en route to a 31:56.0 victory with Cheptai second in 31:56.4. Aprot confirmed her spot on the national team finishing third in 32:16.7 with Veronica Nyaruai a distant fourth in 32:34.6.
"I am really happy with today’s results as it was only my second 10,000m,” said Tirop, who trains under Erick Kibet in Itan. “Making the team with my training mate is a blessing. I am very thankful to my training group and my coach. My journey is just starting and we can expect more to come in London."
Rutto confirms his new status
The second final of the day saw a deep men’s 5,000m field with 15 athletes at the start.
Kaptagat-based Cyrus Rutto, the second fastest Kenyan this year over the distance, used a 55-second last lap to take the win in 13:31.5 and qualify for the IAAF World Championships.
"Being sidelined from the team for the Olympics last year was very painful. Today I felt great and I am happy to show that I deserve my place in the National Team," said Ruto, who trains in Kaptagat under coach Patrick Sang.
Davis Kiplangat, the 2015 world U18 silver medallist, was a close second in 13:31.7, securing his spot for London. The Kiptere-based athlete will be making his national team debut in the senior ranks.
Road race specialist Geoffrey Koech was third in 13:33.9 but still has to run the qualifying standard of 13:22.00 to validate his ticket in the team. Otherwise it would be veteran Josphat Menjo, who was fourth place in 13:35.3, who would qualify, running his first World Championships since 2007.
Pre-race favourite Caleb Ndiku did not start the race due to a persistent injury while Kenyan 5000m leader Geoffrey Kamworor will be running the 10,000m on Saturday (24).
Kipruto and Birech qualify with ease
Rio Olympic 3000m steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto and 2015 IAAF Diamond League winner Jairus Birech both won their respective heats in the 3000m steeplechase event to qualify for Saturday’s (24) final.
Kipruto clocked 8:36.0 to take the first heat in front of newcomer Benjamin Kigen (8:36.5), national champion Felix Kirongo (8:37.0) and training partner Abraham Kibiwott (8:37.4h) who also moved on automatically.
Birech won the second heat in 8:34.7 over 2008 Olympic champion Brimin Kipruto (8:35.1), world junior champion Amos Kirui (8:35.4) and Daniel Kipchumba (8:35.7).
As the defending world champion, Ezekiel Kemboi did not have to participate as he was given a secured wild card spot for London.
Favorites through in the men's 800m
The last event of the day saw top 800m runners battle it out, with the top three from each of the two heats, along with the next two fastest, move on to Saturday’s final.
Ferguson Rotich, The 2016 IAAF Diamond League winner, won heat 1 in a commanding 1:45.2, beating US-based new sensation Emmanuel Korir (1:45.5) and 2013 IAAF World Youth Champion Alfred Kipketer (1:45.9).
World junior champion Kipyegon Bett won heat 2 in 1:45.9, with Michael Saruni (1:46.1) and Job Kinyor (1:46.3) taking the last two automatic spots.
World record holder and two-time Olympic champion David Rudisha did not run as he already has a spot as the defending world champion.