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Kenya’s junior runners stun their competitors to head the standings at World Under-20 Championship

Kenya’s junior athletes completed a stunning conquest of the IAAF World U20 Championships in Tampere, Finland with six gold medals, four silvers and a bronze to end United States’ six-year chokehold on the age group festival.   

Solomon Lekuta led Ngeno Kipngetich to a 1-2 finish of men 800m on the final day of championships while Leonard Bett and Miriam Cherop bagged silver in 3,000m steeplechase and women 800m respectively.

The 11-medal feat in Tampere completed Kenya’s fourth conquest in the event’s 32-year history with only USA bettering that record with eight wins.

Kenya led the medal standings from the opening day and bagged four medals yesterday to complete the rout.

Lekuta and Kipngetich ran tactically, lurking behind Ethiopia’s Adisu Girma who led the field through a scorching 52.17 opening lap.

The Kenyan duo then timed their kick on the final straight to whiz past a tiring Girma and the rest of the field. They had each other to beat with Kenya assured of Gold and silver.

Lekuta proved stronger as he clocked 1:46.35 to take gold as Kipngetich settled for silver in a personal best time of 1:46.45. Algeria’s Oussama Cherrad won bronze in 1:47.10. 

In the men 3,000m steeplechase, Kenya ceded the title to Ethiopia after the country’s sole runner in the final Leonard Bett ran out of steam leaving Takele Ginate to win by the minutest fraction of a second.

Bett led the race from the beginning but mistimed his final kick and thus enabled the Ethiopians to yank the steeplechase title away from Kenya. Amos Kirui won in Bydgoszcz, Poland two years ago and Bett took on the title defence initiative early.

He led the field through the opening 1,000m in 2:52.43 and was still in the lead at the 2,000m mark which he passed in 5:44.15.  His last lap mistake however, let him down as he had to settle for second best in 8:25.39 behind Ginate while bronze medalist from two years ago Getnet Wale of Ethiopia finished third again in a slower time (8:26.16) than he recorded in Bydgoszcz.

There was further heartache in the women 1,500m final as Ethiopia won gold ahead of Kenya after the country’s representatives Miriam Cherop and Edina Jebitok finished second and fifth respectively.

Canadian Jocelyn Chau led the opening 300m of the mile then Delia Sclabas of Switzerland was ahead as the field passed 700m-mark in 2:04.80. Ethiopian gold winner Alemaz Samuel then seized control and clocked 3:08.68 with one lap left. Cherop was on her shoulder and sprint contest in the last 400m left the Kenyan reeling behind, eventually settling for silver in 4:10.73.

Jebitok, a medal prospect ahead of the final finished fifth in a disappointing 4:15.17.

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