Ferguson Rotich will spearhead a strong field in the 4x800m relay team as Athletics Kenya named the squad for the World Relay Championships slated for April 22-23 in Bahamas following the trials held in Kasarani Stadium on Saturday.
Rotich, who was in the gold medal winning team in the 2014 Nassau (Bahamas) relay championship, will be joined by Alfred Kipketer, an 800m specialist was also in the winning relay quartet alongside Rotich.
Also in the team is 2012 Olympic Games silver medalist Timothy Kitum. Cornelius Tuwei and Bett Kipyegon complete the team.
Rotich, who finished fifth in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil over 800m, finished second in the trials in 1:44.7 behind Kipyegon (1:44.2) while Kipketer finished third in 1:45.5.
Despite coming short of his personal best of 1:43.22, Rotich is optimistic that he will improve on his speed and Kenya as a team will perform well.
“I am pleased with the race today as I finished strongly and did enough to be selected. In Bahamas, we are going to do well because our squad is strong and talented. Now it is just a matter of training well on speed and finishing,” he said.
“My form is good despite starting my training later than I usually do at this time of the season. We are going for nothing short of gold in Bahamas. On the same note, I would like to improve my timing so that is also something that I have set for myself,” race winner Kipyegon said.
There was controversy in the 200m men’s race after questionable results were released by officials. It appeared that Ferdinand Omunyala was ahead of the field when he crossed the line.
However, Omunyala was recorded as the second place finisher in 20.7 seconds. Former rugby player turned sprinter Collins Omae was recorded as the winner in 20.6 seconds. Peter Mwai came third in 20.8 seconds.
An AK official said that no action was taken since no one filed an official complaint. “This timing issue sometimes happens especially when manual time keepers are used. If there was a doubt, then the affected athlete ideally should make a complaint for the issue to be followed up and that never happened,” the official said.
In the 100m, the well built Omunyala was again the man to beat as he recovered from a slow start and turned up the afterburners in the final 20 metres to win the race in 10.1 seconds.
Lentukenye had an early lead
Emmanuel Lentukenye, who led for majority of the race took second position in 10.2 as Dennis Otieno finished third in 10.4. Omunyala and Omae are joined by 2015 Kenya Defence Forces 100m champion Mike Mokamba in the 4x200 m relay team. Peter Mwai and Mark Otieno are also in the team.
In the women’s 800m, Emily Cherotich recovered from a poor first lap to win the two lap race in 2:00.9.
Cherotich was trailing at the back when the bell rang but she was brilliant on the final bend as her tactful strides enabled her to glide past the competition and open up a five metre gap over second placed over Sylvia Chesebe (2:04.0).
Josephine Chelanda finished third in 2:04.3.
Speaking during the squad announcement, Athletics Kenya CEO Susan Kamau urged the team to prepare well as they embark on the journey to represent the nation.
“Congratulations to the athletes who made the team. Now is the time to put in more effort as you prepare for the competition. We as AK are ready to support you throughout to ensure that you are fully prepared to represent us well,” Kamau said.
It was also revealed that the squad will start their official training on April 5 .
Men 4x200m: Collins Omae, Ferdinand Omunyala, Peter Mwai, Mike Mokamba, Mark Otieno; 4x800m: Ferguson Rotich, Bett Kipyegon, Alfred Kipketer, Cornelius Tuwei, Timothy Kitum.
Women 4x200m: Maximilla Imali, Damaris Okoth, Mary Tanui, Patricia Isachi, Peris Chege; 4x400m: Jacinta Shikanda, Grace Kidake, Evelyne Makaa, Veronica Mutua, Catherine Nandi; 4x800m: Emily Cherotich, Sylvia Chesebe, Josephine Chelagat, Mary Kuria, Elgay Nalianya.
Mixed Relay: Alphas Kishoyian, Betty Chelagat, Daisy Komen, Geoffrey Kiprotich, Boniface Mweresa.
Officials: George Macharia (coach), Elkanah Nyangau (assistant coach).