NAIROBI, Kenya, May 15- Having stormed to record books last Friday at the opening IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha, Worlds bronze medallist, Hellen Obiri, took pride of place by emerging the undisputed star of the 35th Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) Championships that wound up in Nairobi on Thursday.
Obiri, 24, successfully defended her women 800m and 1500m double before helping her Laikipia Airbase team to the third medal in the 4X400m with one eye on the inaugural IAAF World Championships in Bahamas where she is part of the 4X1500m squad.
Other highlights from the three-day affair held at Nairobi’s Safaricom Stadium included a new National Record in the women’s High jump of 1.75m leaped by Caroline Cherotich on Wednesday.
World Half Marathon women’s champion Gladys Cherono was peerless as she easily held on to her 5000m and 10000m crowns as Olympics steeplechase bronze winner, Abel Mutai, three-peated in his speciality.
Momentum builds for Obiri
The dust has hardly settled after the barnstorming 8:20.68 AR, NR, MR and fifth fastest of all time unfurled by the Laikipia Airbase (LAB) based Corporal Hellen Obiri in Doha over 3000m before she returned home to command the headlines again on Thursday.
Obiri easily raced to the 800m and 1500m crowns without breaking sweat with the clocks returning 2:00.6 and 4:10.0 in that order before she anchored her LAB team to finish third in the 4X400m relay in 3:53.1.
She completed a commanding 4 second victory over Sela Jepleting (2:04.4) over two laps before out-haring the same closest challenger in the longer event by 5 seconds (4:15.0).
The World Indoors silver winner immediately shifted her focus to once again append her name in history by helping her nation’s 4X1500m quartet to improve on their own 17:05.8 WR* in Bahamas even though she was not part of it when it was run at the April 26 Trials having been given as wildcard to the event.
“I’m in pretty good shape and since we are travelling to Bahamas in a week’s time, it was important to keep it going. We have a strong team in the women 4x1500m and I promise Kenyans first the gold then world record,” the Istanbul 2012 World Indoor champion said.
She was coy whether she could break the long-standing 8:06.11 world record set by Wang Junxia in 1993 after her huge PB in 3000m in Doha by stating she would focus on establishing herself first in 1500m where she’s eyeing a slot in the Kenyan Commonwealth team.
“It has taken 20 years for such a time to be run and the record of 8:06 is very far. For now, to run 8:20 is hard but in future, it will broken by someone else if not myself.
“We knew Genzebe (Dibaba) had asked for a World Lead and we decided with Mercy Cherono who we have trained together in the national team camp to sit and wait.
“With 300m to go, we saw she was not running away and we went past and Cherono pushed me for 80m in the homestretch but I knew I’m good over the last 100m and I won. I believe I will be in better shape in another month and we shall see,” she added in recognition of her Doha bridesmaid and Worlds 5000m silver winner, Cherono.
Thika’s Edwin Kemboi (1:45.5) and former World Junior silver medallist, James Magut (3:40.4) prevailed in the men 800m and 1500m races in that order.
Cherono on the double
Having scaled to the World Half Marathon title in Copenhagen on March 29, Corporal Gladys Cherono who is also the Worlds silver winner over 10,000m broke no sweat when holding on to the long distance double.
Her assault started Wednesday when she held on to her 5000m crown in 16:49.8, stopping Lineth Chepkurui (16:52.1), the 2009 senior women World Cross fourth finisher before she retained the 25-lap title by out-sprinting the hard chasing 2013 Boston Marathon champion, Sharon Cherop (34:13.0 against 34:16.0) on Thursday.
The corresponding men’s races were shared between the 2008 World Cross senior bronze medallist, Vincent Kiprop Chepkok who won the 10,000m in 29:04.6 with John Chepkwony, the 2010 World Junior silver medallist dominating the distance in 13:37.8.
Mutai eyes break in
Surprise London Olympics steeplechase bronze winner, Abel Mutai, erased the disappointment of being forced down to seventh in the start-studded Doha DL meet where she clocked a year best 8:17.77 to win his third Forces title on the bounce in 8:35.0.
Fast finishing Wilson Maraba (8:35.6) and perennial challenger Abraham Chirchir (8:36.2) took the lesser medals.
With reigning Commonwealth and World Cup titleholder, Richard Mateelong, held back from action by long-term injury, Mutai is keen to break to break into the country’s steeplechase championship winning trio that includes two-time Olympics and three-time world champion, Ezekiel Kemboi and the man he supplanted from both crowns, Brimin Kipruto.
“It’s the third time to win and this is preparations for the Africa Championships and Commonwealth Games and wherever I’m selected, I will compete.
“The veterans are still competing and they have been there for long but I will try as hard as possible to get among them. For now, I’m still not into good shape and I’m training to get close to Kemboi and Brimin,” the African champion added.
Agnes Chesang (9:46.1) broke away from the challenge of 2008 World Juniors silver medallist, Elizabeth Mueni (10:02.0), to rule the roost in the women’s water and barriers race.
Bahamas warm-up for sprinters
With the inaugural World Relays in Bahamas only ten days away, KDF sprinters selected in the national team in the men 4x200m and 4x400m squads used the meet to gain some competitive shape.
Commonwealth 400m titleholder Mark Mutai (46.3) was humbled by Boniface Mucheru (45.2) his team-mate in the 4x400m Bahamas line-up as he failed to reclaim the crown he last won in 2011.
“I’m happy for finishing in a respectable position and with the training we have done, we are capable of doing very well and get into the final. We are ready for Bahamas since we have been in the finals of Commonwealth and Africa championships.
“The team of the young athletes we have will give us an edge and today, we have seen the individual performances. We are targeting 3:00 or less in Bahamas,” Mutai said.
“My plan of defending the Commonwealth title is in place and I’m hoping come June, I hope to be ready and have run 45.5,” he added.
Bahamas bound Walter Moenga clinched the men 100m and 200m double dashing to 10.3 and 21.2 victories.
“Today was my day. The KDF is more or less like the nationals and if you make it through here, you cannot get stuck. This was like a time trial and it is very stiff in camp since we are five in the team and only four will run,” Moenga, a Superintendent attached to Thika observed whilst revealing he was feeling the effects of a slight strain observed.
“We are going to take the sprinters to the same place as the middle distance runners,” he added.
High jump record
Lena Serem long standing national record of 1.70m set at the 1991 National Championships fell on Wednesday when Private Caroline Cherotich of Kahawa Garrison leapt to 1.75m.
The new mark will officially enter local history books when it is ratified by Athletics Kenya.