5 Highlights and Thoughts from the 2015 Kenyan Track and Field Trials

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by LetsRun.com
August 2, 2015

The 2015 Kenyan World Championship Trials are in the books. Full results are here. The provisional lists of entrants from Kenya to Worlds appears on Alberto Stretti‘s blog. You can find links from Kenyan newspapers on our front page from Saturday here.

This piece is mainly about our thoughts after the Kenyan Trials, but before we get to those, in case you missed the action we’ve got the 5 Highlights from the Trials, before our five thoughts.

5 Highlights from the Trials

1) Asbel Kiprop is Still On Fire, He Dominated Kiplagat and Saluted the PM Before the Finish

Kiprop came into the Trials having dominated a fast 1500 in Monaco and a moderate mile in London. He kept up that form at the Trials as he dominated Silas Kiplagat. Capital FM wrote,  “The Daegu and Moscow world champion would have ran faster than his winning 3:34.03 had he not slowed down to salute the Head of State having crushed an imposing field after he attacked from behind before killing them off with a devastating last-lap sprint.”

Watch the Finish For Yourself: (we’ve got it set to start at the finish of his race)

2) World XC Champ Geoffrey Kamworor Ran an Altitude World Record of 27:11 for 10,000m
In this thread, people discuss how fast that would be at a lower altitude. It was enough to get him a four-second victory. If anyone is going to challenge Mo Farah at Worlds at 10,000m he is the #1 choice.

3) Faith Kipyegon Ran an Altitude World Record of 4:01.85 for 1500
Kipyegon was only 5th at the last Worlds, but she has run 3:56.98 in 2013 and is in great shape now.

4) David Rudisha Got Beat Again
Ferguson Rotich beat him in the 800. Rotich won the Kenyan Trials last year and does well at altitude, but did not make the final of Worlds last time or medal at last year’s Commonwealth Games. The big thing to take away here is not Rotich’s form, but Rudisha’s. Still a lot of questions heading into Worlds.

5) Nicholas Bett Ran 48.29 for 400m Hurdles to Move to #3 in the World
We’d love to see a Kenyan medal in a non-distance event on the track, but don’t get too excited. The altitude helps someone run faster at 400m hurdles. Bett’s best this year not at altitude is a modest 49.39.

(If we can’t talk about Bett, then know that Eunice Sum dominated the 800 to stay unbeaten this year)

5 Thoughts on the Kenyan Trials:

1) Kenya has one important decision to make – which stud gets the 4th spot in the 1500 (and which two studs are left at home)?

Other than the men’s steeple, where Kenya has 8 of the fastest 9 men in the world in 2015, Kenya’s strongest event on paper on the men’s side is the 1500 where they 4 of the fastest 8 men in the world in 2015 (and 5 in the top 11 and 7 in the top 14). Even though Kenya can enter four in the event, someone extremely fast is bound to be left home.

Top 6 at Kenyan 1500 Trials
1500 m     1 August
1 Asbel Kiprop KEN 30 Jun 89 3:34.03
2 Silas Kiplagat KEN 20 Aug 89 3:34.44
3 Elijah Manangoi KEN 5 Jan 93 3:34.46
4 Robert Biwott KEN 28 Jan 96 3:34.71
5 Timothy Cheruiyot KEN 20 Nov 95 3:34.86
6 Ronald Kwemoi KEN 19 Sep 95 3:35.25

Matthew Centrowitz and Leo Manzano certainly didn’t catch a break as the Kenyan Trials went largely according to form in the 1500.

Reigning world champ and 2015 world leader Asbel Kiprop put on a show and dominated.  Silas Kiplagat, the only man on planet Earth who has a winning lifetime record against Kiprop (14-11 at 1500 and 18-16 at all distances), was second, and 22-year-old Elijah Manangoi, the revelation of the 2015 season, was third. Coming into the year, Manangoi had a 3:35.0 hand-time pb from altitude but he has shown he’s a real talent over the last month. On July 3 in a low profile meet in France, he won and PR’d at 3:34.88. He then won the Kenyan national champs (not Trials) on July 11 before arriving as a player on the world scene with a 3:29.67 showing in Monaco.

Those three were all named to the team. Kenya hasn’t named its 4th runner.

It will be interesting to see who gets spot #4 as the #4-5-6 finishers in the Kenyan Trials all have credentials and all are just 19. Let’s take a look at each of them.

Biwott About to Pass Makhloufi

Biwott About to Pass Makhloufi

4. Robert Biwott – Biwott, the 2013 World Youth champ at 1500 who won the DL in Shanghai last year when Taoufik Makhloufi celebrated too early, is a big-time talent and supposedly just 19. Coming into the Kenyan Trials, he was 6th in the world at 800 thanks to his 1:43.56 and 7th in the world at 1500 thanks to his 3:30.10 in Monaco. Biwott first ran the 800 at the Kenyan Trials, failing to make the final before placing fourth in the 1500.

5. Timothy Cheruiyot – Another 19-year-old, this is the guy who we wondered if he’d be Kenya’s next breakout talent before the World Relays. There, in his first race outside of Kenya, he went out crazy fast and was beaten by Ben Blankenship for gold on the anchor leg of the DMR. At the time, we figured the loss was a result of the crazy first lap but at Pre, in the B heat, Blankenship beat Cheruiyot again (Cheruiyiot was 3rd). Since then, he’s only raced domestically save for a 3:35.24 pb in Morocco. We can’t imagine he’d be picked over #4 or #6.

6. Ronald Kwemoi – The third 19-year-old came into the year as the most accomplished of the three at 1500 as he ran a world junior record of 3:28.81 last year in Monaco. This year, he didn’t race in Monaco but did run 3:30.43 in Paris where he beat reigning Olympic champ Taoufik Makhloufi (and Biwott) to finish third.  He also beat Biwott in that race but not running Monaco could hurt him in the selection process as Biwott has a better seasonal best.

Given the fact that Biwott has run the fastest of the three on the year, they are all .500 against each other in head to head matchups this year (Biwott vs. Cheruiyot is 1-1, Biwott vs. Kwemoi is 1-1 and Cheruiyot vs. Kwemoi is 2-2), and Biwott finished the highest at the Trials, one would think he would be the pick.

2) A guy who didn’t even have the standard in the 5000 or 10,000 at the start of June made the team at 5000.

Meet 24-year-old Emmanuel Kipsang.

Coming into the year, Kipsang according to tilastopaja.org had raced very sparingly and had road pbs of 28:06 (2013) and 63:55 for 13.1 (2013). However, he became a contender back on June 12 when he won the famed Kenyan Police champs at altitude in 13:23.10. On July 12, he picked up the IAAF 5000 standard by running 13:19.42 at the Kenyan Champs (not Trials) in the race where Geoffrey Kamworor ran 13:13.28. He then went to London where last week he ran on the track in Europe for the first time, finishing third in the 3000 in 7:37. At the Kenyan Trials, he was 2nd.

Sally Kipyego

3) Sally Kipyego made the team despite being a DNF in the 10,000.

Many people probably saw that 9-time NCAA Champion and Olympic silver medallist at 10,000m Sally Kipyego was a DNF in the 10,000 and assumed she wasn’t going to Worlds. That’s incorrect.

In the 10,000, only 7 Kenyan women had the standard coming into the Trials and of those women, only 5 of them raced, and of the 5 that did race, only two finished. Kipyego was the logical choice for the third spot as shown below.

The 7 Kenyan Women With The 10,000 Standard/Performance At Kenyan Trials
Sally Kipyego (30:42.26 – 2014) – DNF

Betsy Saina (30:57.30 – 2014) – former Iowa State star was 2nd at Trials.
Vivian Cheruiyot (31:13.29 – 2015) – 3-time World Champ on track won Kenyan Trials.

Sally Chepyego (31:28.07 – 2014) – 3rd placer in Tokyo marathon was a DNF.
Doricah Obare (31:45.24 – 2014) – Japan-based Kenyan didn’t race.
Florence Kiplagat (31:48.6 – 2014) – 2:19 marathoner was a DNF.
Grace Kimanzi (31:57.35  – 2015) – Japan-based Kenyan didn’t race.

The third placer at the Kenyan Trials, Joyce Chepkirui, didn’t have the standard.

4) Nothing at the Kenyan Trials really helped the US medal hopefuls.

Looking at Worlds, the US’s best medal hopes lie in the men’s and women’s 800s and 1500s as well as the steeples and men’s 10,000. Nothing out of the ordinary happened in those events that would boost the medal prospects of a US hopeful. Pretty much all of the major Kenyan players one would expect to make the team did.

For example in the men’s steeple, the four fastest Kenyans on the year took the top four sports and punched their tickets to Beijing.

Over the weekend, we decided to rank all of the mid-d/distance events in order of where the US has the best chance of earning a medal at Worlds. We see the order like this: women’s 1500, women’s 800, men’s steeple, men’s 1500, women’s 10,000, men’s 10,000, women’s steeple, men’s 800, men’s 5,000 and women’s 5000. What do you think? Post your ideas in our forum: MB: Rank the mid-d / distance events in order of most likely to least likely for a US medal at 2015 Worlds.

5) Galen Rupp is going to have his hands full.

Coming into the year, we viewed Galen Rupp as one of America’s top medal hopes. For good reason.

Rupp was the winner of the Pre Classic 10,000 in 2014, and has finished 2nd and 4th in the last two global championships at 10,000. Add in the fact that much of the talent has left the 10,000 for the marathon and there was good reason to be very bullish on Rupp’s chances.

However, now that the Kenyan Trials are over, we think Rupp has gone from a near-lock to a medal to a guy who is going to need everything to go his way to get one.

Why?

Well the 10,000 results in Kenya were pretty amazing. The top three finishers – Geoffrey Kamworor, Bedan Karoki and Paul Tanui – all obliterated the world record for altitude and ran the three fastest times ever recorded in Nairobi. The previous best time in Nairobi was achieved by Wilson Kiprop at 27:26.93 in 2010 but Kamworor ran 27:11, Karoki ran 27:15 and Tanui ran 27:18.

One certainly doesn’t expect Rupp to beat his Nike Oregon Project teammate Mo Farah. After this result, we’d say very few would expect him to beat the world cross country champ Geoffrey Kamworor. So that leaves one medal for the taking.

Rupp certainly isn’t favored for that over Tanui as Tanui beat Rupp out for a medal in 2013 and is #2 in the world this year at 5000 at 12:58 (though Rupp did beat him in the 10,000 at Pre last year). And Tanui was only third at the Kenyan Trials. And we haven’t even talked about the Ethiopian Trials winner Muktar Edris, who was the world leader at 5000 at 12:54 last year and is just 21.

If you are a Rupp fan, however, don’t give up hope. There are two big things Rupp can hang his hat on.

i) Last time we checked Beijing isn’t at altitude. The fact that Kamworor, Karoki and Tanui were amazing at altitude won’t help them much in Beijing.

ii) Edris and Karoki were both less than impressive in Lausanne at 5000. In a race that was won by Farah in 13:11, Edris was 5th in 13:19 and Karoki sixth in 13:21.


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