African champ Makwala thrills at Kasarani as Kenya picks 28 for World relay

By evelyn watta
Apr 11, 2015
  • Isaac Makwala of Botswana dips ahead of Alphas Kishoyian in the men's 4 by 400 m at the national relay trials at the Safaricom Stadium.(Photo by Shutterspeed)

African 400m record holder Isaac Makwala's last second dip at the finish line saved the day for the Botswana 4 x 400m team as they sneaked away with 0.01 seconds win over the Kenyans anchored by World Youth Silver medalist Alphas Kishoiyan at Friday’s national relay trials at the Safaricom Kasarani stadium.

Makwala, the African champion was seemingly relieved to have guided his sub 45 second teammates, the fastest on the field, to a 3:04.87 win over the untested Kenyan quartet deflated by slack baton changeovers clocking 3:04.88 in the tightly contested race.The Nigerians finished third in 3:06.71.

Nakuru based Alex Sampao was quick off the blocks, easing away from the gritty and experienced Southern Africans and Nigerian sprinters who peppered the trials, a lead that Boniface Mweresa struggled to hold onto as the Tswana’s fleetingly closed the gap.

Mweresa passed the baton to Michael Makan who ran neck to neck with Pako Seribe before the ultimate duel pitting the propitious Youth Olympic bronze winner Kishoyan who coasted away from a charging Makwala struggling against the unfamiliar Nairobi altitude.

The 28-year olds' experience ultimately counted as he closed in on a slowing Kishoyian, eight years his junior, surging past the Kenyan cheered on by the sizeable crowd at the final bend.

It was a lead cut short by the diminutive 2011 World Youth medalist determined to sprint away in the home stretch but the burly Makwala lurched on the line first.

“What was that? That was a tough race. I came here to win but in the home stretch I just couldn’t move, I failed to get it,” Makwala who won silver at the continental cup in Morocco last year offered dejectedly, unaware that he had just managed to retain his clean sheet on African soil since his double gold in September in the relay and 400m race in Marrakech as he heads to the worlds.

“All of us as we ran today are sub 45 runners so I thought it would be an easy race here but it was actually tough! maybe it was the altitude!” he considered but hopeful that his team has what it takes to win a medal in Bahamas.

“It was the first time for us to take on the best of Africa one-on-one!it was a great experience,”said Mweresa thrilled by the close finish.

“Racing with the African champion and keeping him off was a good experience,” added Kishoyian.

“I think we just need more of such races as our speed is up there and then work on our changeover technique over the next weeks in training before Bahamas.”

Kiprop, Kwemoi in Medley relay team

But what is arguably Kenya’s strongest team to the May 2-3 championships missing a host of the leading middle distance runners who skipped the relays, was the routine race for World 1500 champion Asbel Kiprop and Ronald Kwemoi the world junior record holder who alongside their anchor Abednego Chesebe(1200m) will make the medley team.

Chesebe’s lead was easily sustained by Nicholas Bett who ran the 400m leg before passing the baton to Kiprop who lapped the kasarani track twice before Kwemoi rounded it off with a poised 1600m run.

Fergusson Rotich who was part of the triumphant 4 by 800m at last year’s worlds was listed as a reserve in the medley team alongside Josephe Poghiso.

“For me the relays is a priority as I have always done when it comes to racing for the national team,” said Kiprop explaining his presence at the trials devoid of Kenya’s leading stars.

“This is all part of my training for my title defense in Beijing as I build up on my speed with another 800m run soon after in Doha.”

Youngster Alfred Kipketer’s remarkable run of form carried on as he anchored his team that included Nicholas Kiplagat, Jeremiah Mutai and London Olympic bronze winner Timothy Kitum in the 4 x 800m in 7:09.1. “I remain focused on the ultimate goal which is teaming up to ensure we retain the title,”said Kipketer the Africa Youth champion.

Kitum was pleased to have been included in the team that will be his first top-level competition after a one and a half year hiatus for the mandatory Force training and lengthened by injury.

“I will use Bahamas as my training race as I look to Beijing and a few Diamond races.

The team of 27 will report for residential training next week under coach Sammy Rono who will be assisted by the sprints coach Stephen Mwaniki and Rose Tata Muya.

Kenyan team to the World Relays:

4 x 400m men

Alex Sampao

Boniface Mwereza

Michael Makan

Alphas Kishoyian

4 x 200m men

Michael Mokamba

Collins Omae

Pius Muia

Geofrrey Kiprotich

Mark Otieno

4 x 800m men

Alfred Kipketer

Nicholas Kiplagat

Jeremiah Mutai

Timothy Kitum

Bernard Kipyegon

Medley relay men

Abednego Chesebe 1200m

Josephe Poghiso 400m

Asbel Kiprop 800m

Fergusson Rotich 800m

Ronald Kwemoi 1600m

4x 800m women

Annet Mwanzi

Sheila Chesang

Sylvia Cherop

Purity Cherotich

Medley relay women

Selah Jepleting 1200m

Emily Cherotich 400m

Sylvia Chesebe 800m

Joyce Sakari  400m

Francisca Koki 400m