NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 12- After two-day trials at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani, Athletics Kenya on Tuesday afternoon named a team of 27 athletes to represent the country at the IAAF World Under-20 Championship to be held in Tampere, Finland from July 10-15.
The team has included a huge number of athletes who competed when Kenya hosted the World Under-18 Championship in July last year with 10 of the 15 medalists Kenya had from that competition making the World Junior team.
“We are happy with the transition that these athletes have made and it shows that there has been some work and follow up which was put in after the World Under-18 Championship,” Athletics Kenya head of youth Barnaba Korir said on Tuesday.
George Manangoi, Edward Zakayo, Stanley Waithaka, Leonard Bett, Dominic Ndigiti, Mary Moraa, Lydia Jeruto, Jackline Wambui, Mercy Chepkirui and Edinah Jebitok all won medals at the World Under-18 and have earned tickets to graduate to the Under-20.
On the final day of the trials at Kasarani, there wasn’t much room for shocks with most of the ‘big names’ progressing.
The most riveting race was the 1500m where Justus Soget crossed the line first ahead of World Under-18 Champion George Manangoi who had to compete with a slightly injured knee.
Up until the bell, a group of almost five athletes, Soget at the front and Manangoi in between were hurdled together. Manangoi, younger brother to world champion Elijah had started the race perched at the tail end of the pack.
With 200m to go, Manangoi took his long strides going past the rest of the pack, but Soget had already put on the afterburners to assure himself of victory.
Soget crossed the line in 3:37.79 ahead of Manangoi who timed 3:39.87. Brimin Kiprotich and John Kibui both ran under the minimum required time, but only the top two qualified into Team Kenya.
“It was a tough race but the most important thing is that I made the team. I am happy that the experience I have gathered running in Europe helped me a lot and hopefully when we go to Finland, I take the gold medal,” Soget said after the race.
Manangoi’s coach Bernard Ouma hopes that he will have regained full fitness by the time the team travels to Finland.
“He picked a knock on his knee during the Oslo Diamond League and we had agreed that he runs at the back throughout the race and only work to get into the team. We didn’t want to push much. It is a minor knock so definitely he will be back to full fitness. He ran quite well today,” Ouma noted.
Meanwhile, head coach Robert Ngiserei is confident the team is strong enough to finish top of the world having come second with nine medals during the last championships held in Poland in 2016.
“Things are changing, the coaching techniques will change, we will try to make sure these athletes do well than all other years. In 2010 I was the coach when we were number one in Canada. This year, I am certain that this team will do wonders,” Ngisirei noted.
At the same time, AK boss Gen (Rtd) Jackson Tuwei has warned unscrupulous agents against trying to tap in the young athletes and has warned the youngsters to be careful on which management group they drop into.
“We know there are very many conmen around and I want to warn them to desist. We have their eyes on them. There is also this issue of doping. We can’t shy away from talking about it because now some agents and coaches have started targeting the young athletes. I want to urge you to be very careful,” Tuwei said while speaking to the athletes at the Kasarani Stadium on Tuesday.
The team is expected to report to camp on Sunday evening and will start training for the championship at the Kasarani Stadium on Monday.
Kenya team to Tampere, Finland
Laban Kiplangat, Gabriel Nkaka (400m), Justus Soget, George Manangoi (1500m), Solomon Lekuta, Kipngetich Ngeno (800m), Leonard Bett, Philemon Kiplagat (3000m SC), Philip Musyoka (Tripple Jump), Moitanel Mpoka, James Mucheru (400m H), Dominic Ndigiti (10,000m walk), Edward Zakayo, Stanley Waithaka (5,000m), Rhonex Kipruto, Solomon Kiplimo (10,000m).
Mary Moraa (400m), Edinah Jebitok, Mirriam Cherop (1500m), Lydia Jeruto, Jackline Wambui (800m), Zena Jemutai, Mercy Chepkorir (3000m), Celliphine Chespol, Mercy Chepkurui (3,000m SC), Beatrice Chebet, Hellen Ekalale (5,000m).