NAIROBI, July 9 – World Cross titleholder, Geoffrey Kamworor warmed-up for a stab at qualifying for the Beijing Worlds by punching his men 5000m finals ticket at the National Championships that gunned off in Nairobi on Thursday.
Also starring on Day 1 at the Safaricom Stadium after dropping the distance was 2011 double distance world champion, Vivian Cheruiyot, who continued to build her speed as she countinues finding her way back to the sport after maternal break.
Kamworor, who is eyeing a slot in the longer 10000m during the July 31 and August 1 Trials for Beijing and African Championships battled punishing elevation to beat double distance Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) champion, Emmanuel Kipsang to the line in 13:19.28.
Worlds bronze medallist and Kenya Police teammate, Isaiah Koech was third in 13:35.14 in the faster second semi that saw his processor as World Cross champion, Japheth Korir fade to sixth in13:37.72.
With Africa Cross silver medallist, Cornelious Kagongo and former 5000m world junior winner, David Bett in the field, it was the deeper of the two races where only the top six were guaranteed a slot in the final.
Koech opened an early lead but Kamworor kept him on toes before taking control in the third lap.
With five rounds to go, Kipsang charged to overtake the 22-year-old but the KDF runner ran out of gas after the bell to see the superior finisher Kamworor accelerate past the 400m bend to motor to victory.
“It was competitive but I’m hoping it will even be more during the finals. Our semi-final had elite athletes which was a good thing because it enabled us know whom to watch out in the finals.
“Our aim was to make it to finals, KDF are very strong so we can’t afford to lose the nationals that we have won for many years,” Kamworor said.
KDF will only be represented by two athletes after Leonard Oloitiptip qualified from the first semil but Kipsang of Laikipia Air Base is not worried by that.
“I wanted to show them that I’m also strong. It was a good race since I will know how to approach the final. I was preserving my energy for Saturday and that’s why I slowed down towards the final lap.
“I knew if I gave them a chance to control the race, it would be difficult for me to catch up. I did well to break their partnership and so I must be very careful in the final three laps. The only person who will give me a hard time is Kamworor,” Kipsang who is eyeing selection Beijing stated.
The first semi saw Geoffrey Kimutai win the race in 13:28.07, eight seconds ahead of Prisons Emmanuel Bett while Willy Kwemoi was third after stopping the timer in 13:32.80.
Others who made the cut are defending champion, Joseph Kitur (Police), Bernard Kipkemoi, Mangata Ndiwa, Kangogo, Elijah Kipchirchir (Prisons), Korir, Tom Mutie and Alex Kibet.
The returning Cheruiyot who is bidding for a fourth World title after winning 5000m (2009) and the 5000m/10000m double in Daegu, cruised to the women’s 1500m final after easily winning the first semi-final in 4:17.92 ahead of Iveen Chepkemoi (4:19.03) and KDF’s Perin Neukampi (4:20.73).
Winfried Mbithe dominated the second semi-final after clocking 4:15.68 to beat Sellah Chepleting of KDF (4:16.27) while fellow colleague Judith Kiyeng was third (4:16.43).
The corresponding men’s race was dominated by Elisha Manangoi of Police in 3:43.67 (semi -1), while Abednego Chesebe reined the second semi in 3:47.18.
The third semi saw Alex Lagat stun Commonwealth Champion, James Magut after clocking 3:51.71, just three seconds ahead of the KDF athlete for the 1-2.
“My prayer is to make the team for the world championships. I will compete in London Diamond League before Trials which will be very competitive,” Magut declared.
Manangoi will be seeking to improve his Personal Best of 3:33.2 when he takes part in next week’s Monaco meet.
“I’m prepared now to face world beaters because last year it was difficult for me since I was still in college. I’ve done some speed work and I’m confident I will do well this time round. I’m eyeing the Africa Games and World Championships.”
Grace Thoithi of Police won the women’s 20km Race walking title in 1:42:35 to beat KDF’s Judy Cherop (1:50:35) as Ruth Wangui from Nairobi settled third (1:52:25).
The women’s long jump saw guest Lissa Labiche from Seychelles dominate over hosts after returning the best effort of 6.25m.
KDF’s Priscilla Tabunda was second with 6.08m while Prison’s Damaris Mbogo jumped 5.89m for bronze.
The three day championship continues Friday with the men’s 20km Walk final, Triple Jump (men) 200m finals and 4x400m relays.