Kenyan juniors off to Nigeria for Africa Athletics

By evelyn watta
Mar 25, 2013
  • Mercy Chebwogen(in blue) trains with her teammates at the Nyayo national Stadium on Friday.(Photo by Shutterspeed)

Reigning world 3000m junior champion Mercy Chebwogen leads a small but talented Kenyan team of 10 runners that left the country on Monday for the Africa Youth Athletics championships in Warri, Nigeria.

After breaking through in her debut championships in Barcelona last year with a dominant 9:08.88 run, Chebwogen is readied to clinch the African title.

She won two rounds of the Kenyan cross country series the 16-year old which included a win over her training mate the newly crowned World Cross country junior champion Faith Kipyegon, and was one of the front runners to make the Kenya team of six runners for the biennale championships held in Poland.

But weighed down by a strong bout of flu, she struggled at the trials in February when the middle and long distance powerhouse picked its team for the World cross, and was granted a wild card after failing to book an automatic spot amongst the top six finishers in the women’s 6km junior race in Nairobi.

Chebwogen was eventually dropped from the final list that travelled to Poland; she took the omission in her stride. “I am still young and my coach told me not to worry as I will get another chance to compete at the world cross. I was happy I got the chance to train with the cross country team which helped boost my shape after the illness,” she said.

She was a direct pick for the Africa Youth team, that will be looking to better the four gold medal haul from Gaborone in 2011 and ranked Kenya fourth behind South Africa, Ethiopia and Egypt. A welcome development for her coach and father Kipng’eno Ngeno who also handles Kipyegon at the Keringet running club in the Rift Valley.

“She is young and will have many more years ahead for cross country running,” reckoned Ng’eno. “The championship in Nigeria is good for exposure as she has only raced in Barcelona and doesn’t have event experience, which is what she needs for now.”

The Africa Youth team coached by coached Stephen Lagat had a weeks residential camp in Nairobi and is tipping each member of his team to win a medal in Warri where 33 countries will be sending their track and field athletes.