NAIROBI, Kenya, April 14- A stellar cast of top athletes will descend on Kisii for the two-day 3rd National Bank of Kenya/AK Track and Field meeting that starts Friday at Gusii Stadium.
Olympic 1500m champion, Asbel Kiprop, who was beaten to third over 800m at the second round in Narok a fortnight ago, returns to the domestic circuit as he sharpens up for the start of the IAAF Diamond League next month.
Fellow Beijing medallist, Janeth Jepkosgei, will launch her competitive season at the meeting where over 600 runners are expected to participate.
Jepkosgei who won women 800m silver at the 2008 Olympics and subsequent World Championships is gearing up for a bid to reclaim the global title she lost to South Africa’s Caster Semenya in Berlin in 2009 in Daegu this summer.
Continental Cup, Commonwealth and Africa 3000m steeplechase champion, Richard Mateelong who took top honours in 5000m at his Narok home turf will face the starter’s gun at the Kisii meeting.
Mark Mutai, the Commonwealth men’s 400m titleholder, Mark Mutai, who was upset to third in the previous event also returns for another bite of the domestic competition cherry in addition to World, Commonwealth and Africa women’s 5000m silver winner, Sylvia Kibet who won the senior women team title at the Punta Umbria World Cross last month.
Freshly minted Rotterdam Marathon women champion, Philes Ongori, who crowned her ultimate distance running debut in style by clocking a brisk 2:24:20 last Sunday, will also be present to urge on the competitors in her home ground.
Athletics Kenya (AK) general secretary, David Okeyo, urged athletes to use the local circuit to seal qualification times for the Daegu World Championships.
“We are very happy with the turnout at the series since quite a number of elite athletes are always in attendance. But the bottom line here is we are expecting athletes not only to come but to attempt to qualify for the World Championships.
“So far in our list, we only have two qualifiers, David Rudisha and Vivian Cheruiyot and our athletes should take our local meetings seriously,” Okeyo expressed.
AK relations officer, Peter Angwenyi, who is also the chairman of Nyanza South branch, the organisers of the meet, exuded confidence that the loaded field would provide qualifiers for Daegu.
“Competition will be very tough in the middle and long distances with the big names who will participate here and this will push them to achieving this times weather permitting,” Angwenyi said from Kisii.
At the same time, 15 Ugandan athletes have been entered to compete at the event.
Ten male athletes and five female runners will be accompanied by a coach. Jacob Araptany, Sasia Emmanuel and Patrick Kiptela will run in the men 1500m race with Daniel Rotich, Ben Siwa, Peter Kibet and Solomon Mutai fielding in 5000m.
Moses Kwemoi and Daniel Rotich will contest in 10000m with Ben Siwa being the lone 3000m men steeplechase exponent.
Uganda’s female contingent for Kisii includes Annet Negesa (800m), Viola Chemos, Christine Chesang and Jackline Cheruto who will compete in the 5000m race.