Three-time World 1,500m champion Asbel Kiprop eased off to victory in his 1,500m race to qualify for the semi-finals at the National Athletics Championships that got off to a thrilling start on Thursday at the Nyayo National Stadium.
Also winning their heats to storm the semi-finals of the 400m were Kenyan champion Alphas Kishoyian, who represented the country at the 2015 World Championships and 2016 Rio Olympics, and African Games 400m silver medallist Boniface Mweresa.
Kiprop, the 2008 Olympic 1,500m champion, who was making a return to the Nationals since winning the 800m title in 2015, led from the gun before dropping to third after the bell.
However, Kiprop, representing Kenya Police, managed to hit the front a few metres to the line to win his heat with the fastest time of 3 minutes and 44.2 seconds, beating Edwin Ng’etich from Nairobi in 3:44.4 as James Tenai from Prisons settled third in 3:44.6.
“I was just testing my body and see how the semi-final goes tomorrow,” said Kiprop, who is set to compete in the Stockholm leg of the Diamond League on June 18, days before the World Championships trials on June 23 to 24 at the Nyayo National Stadium.
Justus Kipchumba from Central Rift claimed his 1,500m heat in 3:44.7, beating Timothy Cheruiyot from Prisons and Kenya Defence Forces’ (KDF’s) Charles Simotwo in 3:45.0 and 3:45.5 respectively. They both sailed through to the semis.
Also sailing to the semi-finals of the 1,500m race was Evans Kipchumba from Nairobi, who won his heat in 3:49.6, beating World Cross Country mixed relays gold medallist Bernard Kipkorir (South Rift) and Geoffrey Matum (Eastern) 3:50.4.
The women’s 1,500m was pushed to a straight final on Friday because the heats attracted few participants including world mixed relays gold medallists Winfred Mbithe and Beatrice Chepkoech.
Kishoyian (KDF) sprinted to victory in the men’s 400m in a time of 46.8. He beat Kevin Kiprotich (Prisons) 47.1 and Evans Omulo (Universities) 47.5.
Mweresa (KDF) clocked 47.3 to prevail in his heat after outlasting Joseph Poghiso (North Rift) and Peter Njunge (Central) 47.6 and 48.0 respectively.
“I want to clinch the World Championships qualifying time of 45.5 during the Nationals,” said Kishoyian, who boasts a personal best 44.7.
Kenya's representative at the 2016 World Under-20 Geoffrey Kiprotich (Prisons) timed 47.3 to also qualify for the 400m semi-finals alongside Said Ruto (KDF), who won his heat with the fastest qualifying time of 46.5, beating Collins Omae ((Eastern) 47.2.
Maximilla Emali (Police) and Jacinta Shikanda (Police), who were in Kenya 4x400m for the World Relays, won their 400m heats to sail through to the semi-finals.
Emali clocked the fastest time of 53.2, beating Mercy Adijaa (Prisons) 54.7 and Sabina Mukoswa (56.5) as they both qualified.
Shikanda timed 54.2 to Vivian Michira (Prisons) 56.3 and Daisy Komen (KDF) 57.0.