NAIROBI, Kenya, June 7- Stirring victories by headliners and gripping upsets by rank outsiders combined to bring a thrilling end to the 2014 Kenya National Championships cum Trials for Commonwealth and Africa Championships in Nairobi on Saturday.
The three day meet lived up to its traditional billing as a graveyard of the greats as well as rubberstamping the supremacy of established stars such as the in form world champion, Eunice Sum, Worlds bronze winner, Hellen Obiri, Worlds silver medallist, Mercy Cherono, Javelin icon, Julius Yego and former World Cross champion, Florence Kiplagat.
Also finding the winning touch were former World junior titleholder, Josphat Bett as well as Jairus Birech who completed an accomplished victory in the men’s steeple following his triumph in Rome 48 hours earlier.
Leading the list of huge upsets were World champion, Asbel Kiprop, who registered a DNF in the men’s 1500m, Commonwealth champion, Mark Mutai who was forced to third in the men’s lap race.
Worlds women steeple silver winner, Lydia Chepkirui could only manage fourth and world junior record holder, Isaiah Kiplangat Koech who surrendered his firm grip in the men’s 5000m crown.
On the field, Julius Yego (80.02) stamped his quality over the competition as evergreen race walkers, Commonwealth bronze winner, Grace Wanjiru (1:35:40) and David Kimutai (1:23.58), 43, took the women and men 20km events although the latter scaled the heights on the line in the face of the sternest of tests from debutant, Samuel Ireri, from Nyahururu.
Birech roars on, Kiprop falls
The men distance races and the top draw at the three-day meet served a mixed dish with Kiprop, who was third in Rome raising the white flag just after the bell in the shocking outcome of the event.
Former steeplechaser, Joseph Kitur timed his sprint to perfection to edge World Indoor champion, John Mwangangi, over the homestretch for victory in 13:30.34 against 13:30.45 in the frenetic conclusion as Wilfred Kimitei (13:30.57) completed an unfamiliar podium.
The fate of Commonwealth champion, Silas Kiplagat, who uncorked a 3:30.45 win in Rome but did not take part here will be decided by selectors.
Moscow Worlds semi finalist, Ferguson Rotich, fresh from winning gold with the 4x800m quartet in Bahamas bagged his maiden national title in a polished 1:44.88 as Prisons runner, Evans Kipkorir (1:45.50) and Commonwealth bronze winner, Nicholas Kiplagat (1:45.73) took the lesser medals.
The men 5000m race saw Joseph Kitur (13:30.34), who last tasted prominence by finishing fourth at the 2009 World Athletics Final upset the cart by reducing World Indoor champion, Caleb Mwangangi (13:30.45) as unheralded Wilfred Kimitei (13:30.57) of Prisons nicked bronze from the fading defending champion, Isaiah Kiplangat (13:30.81) who nestled just outside the medals.
Having endured a few barren seasons, the superior kick that landed Josphat Bett the World Junior title in 2010 was replayed in the last 200m of the men 10,000m to round off the win in 28:06.2 as Police team mate and sixth finisher at Daegu Worlds in 2011, Peter Kirui (28:06.5) completed the 1-2 with Charles Cheruiyot (28:07.1) of Prisons closing the podium.
With the crowd at Nyayo National Stadium expecting Olympics and World champion, Ezekiel Kemboi to show, Birech, who ruled the roost in Rome, shook off the jet lag to hold off two-time World Junior champion, Jonathan Ndiku for victory with the clocks returning 8:18.9 against 8:21.4 as 2009 World Youth winner, Hillary Kemboi (8:26.6) led the challengers home for bronze.
Obiri, Cherono untouchable
She’s been described as arguably the best female distance runner on the planet and once again, Hellen Obiri, fresh from beating world champion, Abeba Aregawi, in Rome deployed a sustained kick in the women’s 1500m final to romp home unchallenged in a rather pedestrian 4:04.97.
Two-time World Junior champion and national record holder claimed silver in 4:05.63 as Serah Jepleting (4:08.85) claimed the third medal.
Another star shaking off the jet-lag to underline her supremacy is the equally red hot Eunice Sum who after notching a 1:59 victory in Italy, returned home to an appreciating crowd to motor to a 2:01.82 win ahead of her mentor and Osaka 2007 champion, Janeth Jepkosgei (2:02.11) as Agatha Jeruto (2:02.29) came in to share the podium with the illustrious pair.
Moscow silver winner, Mercy Cherono, also enjoying a purple patch completed the most commanding victory of the distance programme at the meet by unshackling herself from the loaded field with four laps to go to race against the clock that stopped in 15:26.66 when she was done hammering the competition to submission.
Janet Kisa, fifth at the Punta Umbria World Cross (junior) won the battle for the challengers in 15:27.12, a yawning 1.54 seconds adrift with seasoned World Cross campaigner, Margaret Wangare (15:30.18) clinching bronze.
Two-time Berlin Marathon champion, Florence Kiplagat, led a Police podium sweep in the 10,000m in a lacklustre 32:30.92 victory as Prague Half Marathon course record holder, Joyce Chepkurui (32:33.19) and two-time World Cross champion, Emily Chebet (32:45.91) bagged silver and bronze.
World junior champion from 2010, Purity Kirui, produced the shock in the women’s steeple after putting together a 9:44.38 victory over Worlds silver medallist, Lydia Chepkirui who returned fourth (9:49.95). Joan Rotich (9:44.00) and 2010 World Junior champion, Hyvin Kiyeng (9:44.00), the 2011 All Africa Games champion won silver and bronze.