James Magayi @magayijim
The ground troops section of Kenya Defence Forces, Kenya Army, drew their plan well in advance by holding trials among their vast numbers over 40 days prior to the KDF Athletics Championships with the aim of breaking even with their counterparts from Kenya Air Force.
The plan seemed to work well in the opening day of KDF’s 39th edition of track and field jamboree as Kenya Army’s Eric Kiptanui scooped the men’s 10,000m title at Kasarani Stadium yesterday.
Previously unheralded, Kiptanui won the 25-lap race in a time of 28:17.1 ahead of more seasoned runners. The Embakasi-based soldier was among a group of nine front-runners who pulled away from the rest of the field after 2,000m.
The leading pack comprised Kiprono Menjo, Stephen Arita, Eric Tirop and Leonard Oloitiptip among others, the latter controlling most parts of the race.
They breezed past the 5,000m mark in 13:50.11 with Oloitiptip in cruise control. Kiptanui lurked behind before bursting forward in the last lap to shock Oloitiptip who had no gas reserves to counter the assault.
Oloitiptip settled for second spot 28:21.4 while Tirop finished third in 28:22.8. Veteran Stephen Arita led talented Emmanuel Kipsang home in fourth and fifth slots while Kimutai Kiplimo grabbed the sixth and final qualifying place to the National Championships.
“The Army strategy really worked for me as I had ample time to prepare for this duel. We really want to break even with Kenya Air Force that has always had the big names. I’m happy for the victory but also disappointed for not running under 27 minutes. That was my target today but I’ll train and hope to attain it during the trials,” said an ecstatic Kiptanui.
World 5,000m champion Helen Obiri had no peers in her race as she strolled to a comfortable 14:48.5 victory with over one minute heads up on second-placed Joyline Koima. The Olympic silver medallist engaged her front running technique and obliterated her fellow soldiers to lay down a marker ahead the trials for CAA Africa Athletics Championships in Asaba, Nigeria.
“The last time I went to the African Championships, I only managed fourth place and that was in 1,500m. I would really want to get back and perform well over my new race, 5,000m, and get a gold medal,” said Obiri.
Cyrus Rutto won the male equivalent, bossing proceedings from gun to tape ahead of Vedick Cheruiyot and Peter Ndegwa who finished second and third respectively.