By JONATHAN KOMEN
Olympic 3,000m steeplechase medalist Abel Mutai easily qualified into the Defence Forces Athletics Championships final at Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani.
Mutai, who is also the Africa champion in the water and barriers race, stayed ahead of the leading pack from the second lap with Charles Rono (Lanet) and Abraham Chirchir of Embakasi.
He stormed into the lead at the third lap and then exchanged the lead with Chirchir before charging forward.
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The shy-looking runner then stepped up the pace as he approached the bell with a devastating kick stopping the timer in eight minutes and 44.3 seconds.
Chichir (8:44.7), Esau Kaiboi (8:50.8) and Christoper Mitei (8:52.6) came in second, third and fourth as Charles Rono (8:53.1) of Lanet and Lab’s Robert Koech (8:54.0) followed.
He said: “The race was quite ok. I expect to do well in the finals.”
Mutai, a Thika barracks based runner, will slug it out with Kennedy Njiru (8:40.4) and Kennedy Kosgei (8:41.8) in today’s finals.
Peter Mateelong (8:42.4), the younger brother of two-time Africa 3,000m steeplechase champion Richard Mateelong, won semi-final two ahead of Ronald Tanui (8:40.9).
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Noah Kemboi (8:54.0) and Christoper Mitei (8:52.6) are also expected to offer a mouth-watering battle.
World junior 1,500m sensation Bernard Kaptingei was too good for a strong line-up, topping the four-lap race finalists in 3:43.0.
Kaptingei will duck it out with Lanet’s Vincent Leting (3:43.4), Nairobi’s Nicholas Kipchumba (3:43.7) and former world junior 1,500m silver medalist James Magut in finals.
Moi Airbase’s former Africa 800m bronze medalist Jackson Kivuva (3:45.2) and Johnstone Simotwo (3:46.0) of Nanyuki are also in the mix.
Kivuva will also lead the 800m charges.
SEE ALSO :Chepkoech races to world lead time in Shanghai meeting
He will be up against Edwin Kemboi (1:48.6) of Thika, Nakuru’s Moses Kipchirchir (1:47.6) and Cornelius Kiplagat (1:47.1) of Gilgil.
Nairobi’s Andrew Kiptoo (1:48.0) and Hosea Kandie (1:48.6) are others to watch.
Thika’s Mathew Sawe, the KDF national champion and Africa bronze medalist, is expected to impress in high jump.
Sammy Kesken, the KDF national champion, needs to prove that his javelin brilliance at the continental show in Benin was no fluke.
Former World Youth 1,500m champion Sheila Chepkurui (4:24.1) needs to be at her best to counter former Olympic 1,500m champ Nancy Jebet Lagat (4:25.2) in the four-lap race final.
Sela Jepleting (Lanet), Beatrice Cherop (Isiolo) and Eunice Jeptoo (Nakuru) are also itching for honours.
Scholah Jepkemboi (2:14.03) topped the 800m race ahead of Eunice Cheptoo (2:20.5), former Olympic 1,500m champion Nancy Jebet Lagat (2:06.8) and World Indoor 1,500m champion Hellen Obiri (2:07.2).
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