July 27, 2014
Kenya dominated the men’s distance events on the final day of the 2014 World Junior Championships in Eugene, Ore., going 1-2 in both the 800 and 3,000 steeplechase. Seventeen-year-old Alfred Kipketer ran 1:43.94 to become the #9 junior of all time (knocking David Rudisha out of the top 10) in a dominant display of front-running. Teammate Joshua Masikonde was second in 1:45.14 as Swede Andreas Almgren took the bronze. American Tre’tez Kinnaird was sixth in a PR of 1:47.13.
In the steeple, it came down to Kenyans Barnabas Kipyego and Titus Kibiego and ultimately Kipyego’s superior hurdling on the final two barriers gave him the gap he needed for the win. Kenyan-born Evans Chematot of Bahrain made it a Kenyan sweep of sorts in third as American Bailey Roth broke the U.S. high school record for the second time in three days, running 8:47.04 for 10th. We recap both races with results and quick takes below.
Alfred Kipketer won World Youths last year by getting out hard and did the same thing when he anchored Kenya to gold at the World Relays this spring. So it was no surprise when Kipketer stormed to the front from the gun, hitting 200 in a blazing 23.59 seconds. His countryman Joshua Masikonde was the only runner to go with him and those two already had an eight-meter gap on Ethiopia’s Jena Umar and Brazil’s Thiago Andre, doubling back after getting fourth in the 1,500 on Thursday. Kinnaird was in sixth place.
Kipketer hit the bell at 49.42 with the field totally strung out behind him and the places remained the same until the final 200. Kipketer and Masikonde still had a considerable lead as they entered the home stretch, but they were both tying up. Masikonde began to slow and the gap between him in second and Umar, Andre and Sweden’s Andreas Almgren was beginning to shrink. Kipketer’s forearms were moving more horizontally than vertically, as if he were trying to dole out rapid-fire high fives to invisible spectators during the homestretch. But despite his flailing arms and the grimace on his face, Kipketer was pulling away from everyone and as he neared the line, it was clear that he was going to run a very fast time. The clock stopped at 1:43.94, a world-junior leader, and gave Kipketer World Junior gold to go with his World Youth gold from last year. Behind him, Masikonde held on for second in 1:45.14 while Almgren pulled away from Andre for third. Andre finished as Mr. Near Miss at these championships as he was fourth in the 1,500 and the 800.
Results and Quick Takes are below:
|2||979||Joshua Tiampati MASIKONDE||KEN||1:45.14||PB|
Quick Take #1: What a phenomenal race.
Kipketer has gone out in 49-point or faster before for the first 400, but he couldn’t hold it, running 1:48 at World Youths and splitting 1:48 at the World Relays. Though 49-point is still a bit quick for Kipketer, he’s clearly in a lot better shape now, as he put it together for a PR of 1:43.95. This was a truly impressive performance in a championship race, and Kipketer’s quick pace up front dragged the rest of the field along for some really fast times. Except for Great Britain’s Kyle Langford, who was in last throughout and only ran 1:55.21, everyone in the field PR’d and five men broke 1:47.
The fast winning time and slew of PRs was reminiscent of the 2012 Olympic final. Though Kipketer didn’t set a world junior record (in fact, the WJR of 1:41.73 was set in that Olympic final, by Nijel Amos), both races featured a Kenyan winning big from the front and both races saw seven of the eight entrants set PRs.
Kenya is already strong at the men’s 800 with Rudisha and 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Timothy Kitum (who just ran 1:43.76 to win his season debut in Heusden last week) but they’ve got some scary talent in the junior ranks with Kipketer and Shanghai DL winner Robert Biwott who are (allegedly) 17 and 18, respectively. It would be great to see all four of them in the 4×800 at the World Relays next year.
Quick Take #2: American Tre’tez Kinnaird did well to get sixth.
Kinnaird entered the prelims with the 11th-best PR at 1:47.99, but looked good in winning his semi on Saturday and finished his season with a nice PR of 1:47.13 in the final. Kinnaird was second at Big 10s this spring as a freshman at Indiana but went out in the first round of the NCAA East Prelims. Instead of ending his season, Kinnaird kept going and won the U.S. junior title and surpassed that performance by making the final at World Juniors and finishing sixth.
Men’s 3,000 steeplechase
This race didn’t go out super quick and at the halfway point most of the field was still in the main pack, with American Bailey Roth toward the back. Just after halfway, Kenya’s World Youth bronze medallist Titus Kibiego (whose 8:22 PR led the field) went to the front and began to push the pace. His countryman Barnabas Kipyego responded and upped the pace even more and a group of five at the front separated from the field — Kipyego, Kibiego, Ethiopia’s Meresa Kahsay, Morocco’s Soufiane Elbakkali and Bahrain’s Evans Chematot (born in Kenya).
With 800 to go, Kipyego still led as the two Kenyans and Chematot broke away from the rest of the field. Kipyego continued to press and Chematot broke on the final lap. It was down to Kipyego and Kibiego for the gold.
The two remained close for most of the last lap, but Kipyego had a better water jump and opened up a small gap. Kibiego started to make it up but he lost his gains with another bad hurdle and that gave Kipyego all the cushion he would need as he ran a 61.21 last lap (2:42 last kilometer) to claim the win. American Bailey Roth was never in contention for the win, but finished 10th in 8:47.04 to break the U.S. high school record he set in the prelims on Friday.
|2||971||Titus Kipruto KIBIEGO||KEN||8:26.15|
|3||302||Evans Rutto CHEMATOT||BRN||8:32.61||PB|
Quick Take #1: The Kenyan domination of the steeplechase is just absurd.
Since it was first introduced in 1988, the men’s 3,000 steeplechase has been contested 14 times at World Juniors and all 14 times a Kenyan has won. On 10 of those occasions, Kenya went 1-2 (remember, each country can only enter two athletes per event) and you could argue that total should actually be 11 since the runner-up in 2004 was Musa Amer Obaid, who was born in Kenya as Moses Kipkirui.
It’s the same story in the senior ranks. Kenya has won 32 of the 33 men’s steeplechases in the history of the Diamond League and a Kenyan-born athlete has won every World/Olympic title since 1988. With Kipyego and Kibiego supporting young stars like Jairus Birech and Conseslus Kipruto, don’t expect that dominance to end anytime soon.