The Safaricom-sponsored Athletics Kenya build-up series came to an end in Eldoret on Saturday in a classic style with athletes competing on a tartan track for the first time outside Nairobi.
Stakes were high during the two days competitions with both the runners and spectators turning up in great numbers to test the now upgraded facility, a move described as a milestone in the athletics-rich region famous for churning out the finest middle distant champions in the World.
It was an event of different dimension with new generation taking control in several events and those with past history making fruitful come back to the on the stage.
Two- times 1,500metres World champion Asbel Kiprop took the home advantage to entertain his fans by running a classic race that saw him set a Stadium record of 3:36.9 in his specialized event during the semis on Friday, sending strong signals to his angling rivals.
However, the agile Kenya Police Officer opted out of what was to be a battle of wits finals, the anti-climax of the meet, and allowed new champion Timothy Cheruiyot of Rongai Athletics Club the rights to brag over the distant.
Cheruiyot, a member of the World Medley Relay Silver Medalist , who played the underdog in the semi-finals by timing 3:44.1 in winning his heat, won the metric mile finals unchallenged. He clocked a better 3:41.3, obliterating another new upshot, Abednego Chesebe, who finished second with 3:41.9, to shine in an event dominated by established runners.
In women 10,000metres, junior athletes dictated the on-goings with Sandra Chebet and her twin sister Emily Chebet, causing a major upset. The Chebets, from South Rift, were first and second, as they were born, stopping the timer in 34:51.7 and 34:54.0 respectively to add flavor to the distant production line.
Sheila Chelagat and Lucy Cheruiyot followed in respectively in that order, given 35:33.6 and 35:57.2 by the manual time-keepers, coaches with experienced with using the stop-watch.
In men, unknown Emmanuel Kipsang clocked 28:26.2 showing less respect for big wig marathoners Geoffrey Mutai and Mathew Kisorio. Mutai, who managed to run the fastest marathon in the world, managed 29:05.1 while Kisorio, timed 29:06.2.
In 1,500m women, Mt Elgon Nancy Chepkwemoi went out of her way to impress, beating a strong protocol. She won the class metric in acceptable 4:06.5, clouding World 5,000metres Champion Mercy Cherono and Diamond League Surprise winner Virginia Nyambura, who returned 4:07.2 and 4:12.4 for second and third.
During the Meet, the last after Bondo, Thika, Nakuru and Kisii, former Africa 3,000metres steeplechase champion Willy Komen, 800m and 1,500m champion Alex Kipchirchir and 1,500 metres specialist Aaron Keitany made a come-back from lay off with Komen finishing 2nd in his chosen event, timing 8:40.5 behind the winner, Felix kelong, who won the water and barrier race in 8:37.3.
In sprints, sensation Alex Sampao and Joy Zakari needed no coaxing to prove their sprinting talents. Sampao, an anchor in the Bahamas World Relays, beat veteran Mark Mutai and master Thomas Musembi in 400metres, doing the lap in 47.01 while the two managed 47.81 and 48.68.
Sheila jepkosgei and Newly discovered Jonathan Kitilit shined in the two laps race in 2:07.3 and 1:45.8 during the finals in the competitions that draw the largest number of fans and dozens of the retired athletes that include 3,000metres World record holder Daniel Komen, pioneer women medalist Susan Sirma, Mary Chemweno, and Paul Ruto, the 1993 World champion over the race.
Franciline Niyonsaba from Burundi clocked 2:09.0 to finish second in the women while Kimutai Taki was runners up in men having crossed the line in 1:46.2. Moses Kipkemboi and Abraham Sawe were third and fourth in 1:46.5 and 1:48.1 in men with Sandra Jepkoech and Caren Maiyo finished in 2:10.2 and 2:13.8 in women.
In the field, veteran Cecilia Kiplagat, Betty Chebet and Rebecca Kerubo stared in the women discus, throwing 39.52m, 37.54 and 33.22. The men’s title went Charles Kipkemboi who managed 47.02 followed by consistent Boaz Monyancha (44.03) and Kimeli Tanui’s 42.61.
Priscila Tabunda beat Petronila Mwombe in women Long Jump. Tabunda, from Isiolo, jumped impressive 5.56 with her rival leaping 5.50metres. The men’s jump was claimed by Tera Langat of Kenya Prisons in 7.50m followed closely by KDF’s Elijah Kimitei (7.31m) and Upwa Yego of Kenya Police who did 7.16metres.
The event, the last of the 5-build up series, was witnessed by top Athletics Kenya and Government officials led by acting AK President Jack Tuwei, Vice Presidents David Okeyo and Paul Mutuwi and CEO Isaac Mwangi.
Sports Secretary Japter Rugut and Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Madago also witnessed the testing of the new facility that is set to be handed over officially to the County Government by the top leadership of the country.
Kipchoge Keino Stadium is the first facility outside the capital and the third public Tartan Track in Kenya after Nyayo and Kasarani. Eldoret, referred as The City of Champions, has the highest concentration of athletes in the World.
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