Kenyan Olympic Trials Day 1: Faith Kipyegon Is Back, Mary Moraa Is Beaten, Reynold Cheruiyot Wins 1500 Thriller

Plus Emmanuel Wanyonyi fell in his 800 semi but has been advanced to Saturday's final

Athletics Kenya held the first day of its quick two-day Olympic trials at Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi on Friday and it was full of action with finals in the men’s 1500 and women’s 800, 5,000, and steeple.

In her first race of 2024, reigning world champion Faith Kipyegon crushed world 10,000m record holder Beatrice Chebet to win the 5,000 while Reynold Cheruiyot emerged victorious in a thrilling five-way kick to win a tremendous men’s 1500 over unheralded Daniel Munguti. The surprise of the day came in the women’s 800 where Lilian Odira took down reigning world champion Mary Moraa, while 2023 Worlds bronze medalist Faith Cherotich won the steeple over 2023 Worlds silver medalist Beatrice Chepkoech. In 800 qualifying, Worlds silver medalist Emmanuel Wanyonyi fell and finished 6th in his heat but was advanced to Saturday’s final.

In each event, the top two finishers with the standard qualified for Paris. Athletics Kenya will use a discretionary selection (to be announced) to pick the third spot.

Recaps/analysis plus videos of the distance races below. You can watch the entire day 1 broadcast here.

Men’s 1500: Reynold Cheruiyot wins a thriller

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The men’s 1500 produced a thrilling race with five men kicking for the win in the home straight. Reigning Olympic silver medalist Timothy Cheruiyot led at the bell after taking the lead just after 400m into the race and on the final turn was pushed hard by Daniel Munguti, the 28-year-old who ran his pb of 3:33.71 at the Kip Keino Classic in April. Those two were joined in the home straight by reigning world U20 champ Reynold Cheruiyot and upstart Brian Komen, who has won the African Games, Doha Diamond League, and Kenyan championship in a breakout 2024 season.

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Komen, who ran almost the entire final 600 meters in lane 2, ran out of gas, and midway down the home straight, Munguti and the two Cheruiyots were three abreast. Ultimately it was Reynold Cheruiyot, who had rode on the rail on the final turn and was only 4th with 150 to go, who had one final burst and took the narrow win in 3:35.63 with a killer 52.6 last lap. Munguti was 2nd in 3:35.80 with Timothy Cheruiyot 3rd in 3:35.90.

Top 3 results

1. Reynold Cheruiyot 3:35.63
2. Daniel Munguti 3:35.80
3. Timothy Cheruiyot 3:35.90

Quick Take: Reynold Cheruiyot is going to Paris. The rest of the team is up in the air…but it should not be that complicated.

Cheruiyot won the trials and has the Olympic standard so will definitely be on the Kenyan team. But after the race, some of the broadcasters on the Kenyan Athletics TV stream expressed concern that Munguti does not have the 3:33.50 Olympic standard (he missed it by .21 by running 3:33.71 at altitude in Nairobi in April). 

Munguti, however, has a strong enough world ranking to go to the Olympics – coming into today, he was 43rd when factoring in a max of three athletes per country. That’s on the borderline of qualifying (World Athletics takes 45 men in the 1500). Munguti said he would try to hit the standard before the qualifying window ends, but there aren’t many races between now and the end of the window on June 30.

But that really should not be necessary. Munguti is effectively ranked 42nd (since one of the Kenyans above him would not be going), plus his 3:35.80 today will bump his ranking up slightly — but he won’t get many bonus points because this is considered a trials as opposed to a national championship (hat tip to Emily Evans on the correction). If Athletics Kenya wants to send him, it can. And it should want to send the guy who finished 2nd in its trials.

Timothy Cheruiyot in 3rd is a more interesting case because AK is not required to pick him. Three years ago, Cheruiyot was only 4th at the trials and AK still sent him to the Olympics, but Cheruiyot was the reigning world champion at the time. Last year, Cheruiyot did not even make the final at Worlds. But given Cheruiyot has been running well this year – he pushed Jakob Ingebrigtsen all the way to the line in Oslo – this should not be a hard decision. Timothy Cheruiyot has earned the third spot; let’s see if Athletics Kenya gives it to him.

Cheruiyot clapped his hands and celebrated after finishing third, thinking he had done enough to make the team.

MB Stunner at Kenyan Trials 1500, Reynold wins, Munguti 2nd, Tim 3rd

Quick Take: Disappointment for Brian Komen

Brian Komen has come out of nowhere this year to become one of the best 1500 runners in the world in 2024. He is the only Kenyan with a Diamond League win this year, taking the 1500 in Doha on May 10, where he beat both Reynold and Timothy Cheruiyot.

But Komen’s lack of championship experience showed today as he ran a ton of extra distance and did not have anything left for the home-straight battle. It would have been fun to have Komen – who likes to stick his tongue out when he crosses the line in victories – in Paris, and he still has a case for selection as the third-fastest Kenyan on the year (3:32.29) But while Komen is 2-1 head-to-head against third-placer Timothy Cheruiyot, beating him in Doha and the Kenyan champs, that is misleading. Cheruiyot has run significantly faster this year (3:29.77), he was doubling in the 800/1500 when he lost to Komen at the Kenyan champs, and most importantly, he beat him head-to-head today. 

Komen’s best path to make the team is if Athletics Kenya somehow chooses not to send Munguti because he does not have the standard. But given today’s results, the team should be pretty simple for Athletics Kenya: Reynold Cheruiyot, Daniel Munguti, and Timothy Cheruiyot.

Women’s 5,000: Faith Kipyegon looks as good as ever

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There were some questions about whether reigning world champion and world record holder Faith Kipyegon would be ready to go at the Trials given she had not raced at all in 2024 before Friday. Kipyegon took less than 15 minutes to settle those doubts, blasting clear of the pack to dominate the 5,000 and win by more than six seconds in 14:46.28.

A large pack hit 3400 meters in 10:24 (15:17 pace) as Kipyegon moved to the front with a mile to go and picked up the pace, at which point the pack began to string out immediately. By 800 to go, Kipyegon, 10,000m world record holder Beatrice Chebet, and two-time Worlds 10,000 medalist Margaret Chelimo had opened a gap over the rest of the field, with Kipyegon motioning to Chebet to help her push the pace.

Chebet was not interested, however, so Kipyegon accelerated further with 500 to go and wound up winning by over six seconds in 14:46.28 to Chebet’s 14:52.55. Chelimo was a distant 3rd in 14:59.39.

Top 3 results

1. Faith Kipyegon 14:46.28
2. Beatrice Chebet 14:52.55
3. Margaret Chelimo 14:59.39

Quick Take: Kipyegon was incredible

Kipyegon has admitted she dealt with a muscle injury earlier this year but you wouldn’t have known it today. In her season opener at 5,500 feet of altitude, she ran 14:46 closing in 4:21 for her final 1600, 2:08 for her final 800, and 63 for her last lap. She smashed a woman who just set the 10,000m world record by more than six seconds. Even if Chebet chose to back off (her Olympic spot was secure as both were clear of the field at that point), that is some seriously impressive running.

Kipyegon will be doubling back in the 1500 tomorrow where she will be the heavy favorite, though she did not commit to running the 1500/5000 double in Paris.

“We will have to go to the drawing board with my coach and see what will happen after tomorrow,” Kipyegon said.

MB: Faith Kipyegon DOMINATES 5k at Kenyan Olympic Trials

Women’s 800: Lilian Odira takes down Mary Moraa as sister Sarah Moraa gets top 3

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In a hugely clutch performance, the surprising Lilian Odira came up with the race of her life to take down world champion Mary Moraa and win in 1:59.27 – a huge pb (previous best of 2:00.81) that took her under the Olympic standard and clinched her spot on the Olympic team. Moraa led at 600m but was overtaken on the final turn by her 18-year-old sister Sarah Moraa. Sarah still led with 20 meters to go, but in the dying meters she was passed by her sister on the inside and by Odira on the outside, who used a huge burst of speed to go from 4th to 1st in the final 30m.

Top 3 results

1. Lilian Odira 1:59.27
2. Mary Moraa 1:59.35
3. Sarah Moraa  1:59.39

Quick Take: This was a huge run from Odira

Odira had barely run the 800 before this year – her pb entering the season was 2:11 from 2019 when she was 20 years old – but had PR’d five times entering today’s race, most recently a 2:00.81 to take 4th at the African Games in March. Still, that was not enough to put her in the world rankings quota for an Olympic spot, so she needed to run the standard today. She did that by PRing by more than a second and a half and will now be on the plane to Paris.

Quick Take: Mary Moraa was likely making the team no matter what

Considering she is the reigning world champion, Moraa was likely going to be on the team as a discretional pick no matter what she did today. Many of the athletes in that situation do not go all-out in the Kenyan trials and it’s possible Moraa may have been holding back as she did not fight her sister for the lead when Sarah made a move on the final turn. That said, by finishing 2nd, Mary assured herself of a spot on the team.

Sarah’s position is more precarious. Had Sarah run just .10 faster, she would have finished 2nd and hit the Olympic standard of 1:59.30 in the process. Instead, she was 3rd and her time of 1:59.39 means she does not have the standard or ranking to go to Paris. If she can find a fast 800 in the next two weeks, she could still get the standard, but right now her world ranking is not high enough to go, which means fourth-placer Naomi Korir, who does have the standard, is in line for selection.

Women’s steeple: Favorites go 1-2-3

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Two spots on the women’s steeple team appeared locked up going into this race as last year’s Worlds silver and bronze medalists, Beatrice Chepkoech (8:55 sb) and Faith Cherotich (9:04 sb) had run more than 10 seconds faster than any other Kenyan woman this year. Those two easily went 1-2, running together to the finish and gapping the rest of the field by 12+ seconds.

Based on entries, it looked like there could be a battle for 3rd between NCAA steeple champ Doris Lemngole (9:15 sb) from the University of Alabama and 8:57 woman Jackline Chepkoech (who has been out of form this year, running 9:30 in her last two steeples). But Lemngole did not run, so Chepkoech wound up taking third and will likely be the third member of the team to Paris.

Top 3 results (courtesy Michelle Katami)

1. Faith Cherotich 9:22.38
2. Beatrice Chepkoech 9:22.76
3. Jackline Chepkoech 9:34.86

Final 300m of steeple

Men’s 800 semis: Wanyonyi falls but advances, Olympic champ Korir eliminated

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There was plenty of drama in the men’s 800-meter semifinals. The most action came in heat 2, where reigning Worlds silver medalist Emmanuel Wanyonyi got himself in a lot of trouble. Wanyonyi led on the back straight but reacted far too casually to a move from Laban Chepkwony and soon found himself passed by Wycliffe Kinyamal and Collins Kipruto as well. That left Wanyonyi just 4th entering the home straight. Was one of the Olympic favorites about to miss out on the final at the Kenyan trials?

With 70 meters to go, Wanyonyi finally kicked it into high gear. He passed Kipruto and was about to pass Kinyamal for 2nd but was clipped from behind by Kipruto and fell to the track. Both Wanyonyi and Kipruto were advanced to what will be a 10-man final on Saturday.

In the other heats, both the gold and silver medalists from the last Olympics failed to advance to the final. Reigning Olympic champ Emmanuel Korir, who ran just 1:52 in his only 800 of the year in Marrakech on May 19, led the first semi at the bell but faded to 6th and did not advance. Meanwhile 34-year-old Ferguson Rotich, the silver medalist in Tokyo, was just 4th in the third semi.

Top 3 results

Semi 1
1. Alex Ngeno                1:46.94
Nicholas  Kiplagat      1:47.04
3. Koitatoi Kidali             1:47.19

Semi 2
1. Laban Chepkwony       1:46.21
2. Wycliffe Kinyamal       1:46.70
3. Festus Lagat                1:47.99

Semi 3
1. Aron Cheminingwa        1:47.20
2. Kelvin Kibet                     1:47.35
3. Noah Kibet                      1:48.04

Quick Take: Wanyonyi needs to take the final more seriously

Wanyonyi has finished 4th and 2nd at the last two Worlds and won both of his first two 800m races in 2024, running 1:43 each time. Yet he went through the motions in today’s prelims and almost paid dearly for it. Kenya does have a discretionary spot, so he could still make the team if he finishes outside the top two in Saturday’s final, but it’s always a risk leaving it in the hands of the selectors. 

Wanyonyi is the most talented guy in Kenya and is still the favorite to win tomorrow, but he needs to focus for the entire race.

Quick Take: Laban Chepkwony was very impressive

There is very little information available online about the winner of the second semifinal, Laban Chepkwony. His World Athletics profile says he is 28 years old, ran 46.99 for 400 meters in his only meet last year, and was 4th in the 800 at the 2024 Kenyan nationals (not trials) in May. Other than that, the only result on his WA profile is a 400m race from 2020.

So we have no idea where he came from or what he’s been doing the last few years, but the way he accelerated and gapped the field in the second semi was very impressive and he has to be considered a contender to make the team now.

The problem for Chepkwony is that since he has barely race the event, he does not have the Olympic standard or even a world ranking in the 800. He basically needs to run the standard (1:44.70) in the final to have a chance to go to Paris.

Discuss this meet on the messageboard:

MB Official 2024 Kenyan Olympic Trials Live Discussion Thread.

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