Youngsters set to battle for slots to Africa showpiece

Athletes in action during a past U18 girls' National Cross Country Championships. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Nyayo Stadium comes alive on Friday and Saturday when Athletics Kenya selects teams to Africa Under 18 and Under 20 Athletics Championships that run in Lusaka, Zambia, on April 29-May 3.

The two-day action, which brings together a mixed bag of talents from primary and secondary schools, will see a handful of Kenya’s triumphant team –fresh from bagging the overall title at the East and Central Africa Athletics Under-18 and Under-20 Championships in Dar es Salaam last month, chase for the 50 available slots.

Barnaba Korir, the AK director of youth development, cautioned teachers and parents against age cheating ahead of the national trials.

“All athletes must produce the required documents. Those in the Under 20 category will provide passports or national Identification Cards while the Under 18 ones must produce Birth Certificates. We will have a watertight scrutiny. Our verification will be done on Thursday. School going athletes must produce letters from school heads and principals," said Korir.

“Unfortunately, our trials come at a time when school games are on. But we have written to directors of primary and secondary schools to allow some potential athletes to compete in the trials and make the national team.

“The Under 20 contestants must attain the qualifying standards. All the timings will be entered into the World Rankings. We have ensured the event meets the World Athletics requirements."

The first edition of this championship was held in 2019 at Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan, Ivory Coast where Kenya finished second overall behind South Africa with 44 medals; 17 Golds, 16 Silver and 11 Bronze medals. Kenya won the U18 title at the same championships.

On eligibility, Korir said, the event will run in accordance with World Athletics Competition and Technical guidelines.

“U-18 athletes – any athlete aged 16 or 17 years on December 31st of the year of competition (Born 2006 or 2007) will be allowed to compete in this age group. U-20 athletes – any athlete aged 18 or 19 years on December 31st of the year of competition (Born 2004 or 2005) will be allowed to compete in this age group," said Korir.

“Athletes must meet the set standards as per the qualifying standards set under the CAA technical regulations. The maximum number of events in which an U-18 athlete may compete are two (2) individual events plus one relay. However, if the two individual events are races (Track events), only one of these two individual events may exceed 200m."

Last month, Kenya won the overall title at the East and Central Africa Athletics Under-18 and Under-20 Championships Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, with 37 medals –24 gold, 10 silver and three bronze –where six countries were in contention.

Mercy Chepkemei, Peninah Mutisya and Judy Kemunto, who swept all the podium places in women’s Under-20 1,500m as Evans Kipkosgei won boys’ Under-18 5,000m gold.

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