SCHOOLS: National champs Nyamira Girls and Musingu Boys keen to prove they are the best

Nyamira Girls' Stephaine Seba (left), Jacibta Opondo and Mercy Dawo. [Washington Onyango, Standard]

As the Kenya Secondary School Sports Association Brookside Term One games gear up for an electrifying start today at Machakos Boys High School, all the participants are full of expectations as they strive to register glory.

Defending champions across hockey, rugby, handball, and basketball disciplines are not only bracing to maintain their supremacy but are also strategising on how to thwart the ambitions of emerging contenders and traditional adversaries.

These champions are well aware that the road to glory is paved with challenges, and they are prepared to face each hurdle with resilience and strategic prowess.

In hockey, the spotlight will shine brightly on Nyamira Girls, the reigning titans from Siaya County and Nyanza Region.

Headlining Group A alongside formidable opponents such as Tigoi Girls from Western, Nyayo Girls, and Pangani Girls from Nairobi, Nyamira Girls are determined not to just retain the national trophy but also to replicate last year’s monumental success by clinching the title at the East Africa level.

Having achieved an unprecedented clean sweep last year—securing titles from Bondo Sub County, Siaya County, Nyanza Region, to the national and East African stages—Nyamira Girls are a force to be reckoned with.

Nyamira Girls captain Jacinta Opondo. [Washington Onyango,Standard]

Nyamira Girls' captain, Jacinta Opondo, sheds light on the team's preparation, emphasising the focus on mental strength.

"We have worked tirelessly to fortify our mental resilience alongside our physical prowess. Defending our titles requires more than skill; it demands mental toughness to overcome the pressures of being champions," Opondo said.

As they prepare to face Pangani Girls in the opening match, Opondo confidently asserts: "Starting strong is crucial. It sets the tone for our campaign and sends a clear message to our competitors. We are here to defend our crown, and we mean business from the first whistle."

Indeed, Nyamira’s dominance was on full display as they clinched the Nyanza Region title with a convincing 4-1 victory over Ageng’a Mixed Secondary School.

Opondo’s eyes gleamed with determination as she spoke about their aspirations for East Africa glory, a goal that looms large on the horizon for the reigning champions.

“Our eyes are firmly fixed on the East Africa title,” Opondo said. “But first, we must conquer the nationals, leaving no doubt about our supremacy.”

St Joseph Girls Kitale players and coaching staff celebrate after winning the 2024 Rift Valley Region hockey girls title.[Courtesy]

Group B presents its own battleground, with Rift Valley giants St Joseph Girls Kitale leading the charge.

Coached by John Lusaka, St Joseph enter the fray with a blend of confidence and determination.

“We’re ready to challenge Nyamira for the title,” Lusaka said, his words echoing the team’s unwavering resolve.

St Joseph Girls Kitale headline a pool that includes St Joseph Kibwezi, Mpesa Academy, and St Charles Lwanga—a lineup that promises fierce competition and thrilling encounters on the hockey pitch.

Nyamira Girls midfielder Amanda Wamalwa in action. [Washington Onyango,Standard]

Meanwhile, in boys’ hockey, Musingu Boys High School is on a quest to secure a second consecutive national title after breaking a 26-year drought last year.

Having clinched silver at the East Africa games held in Huye, Rwanda, last year, Musingu is ready to face St. Anthony’s Boys Kitale in what promises to be a thrilling encounter. Positioned in a challenging Group B, the team's aspirations are high.

Musingu coach, Benson Wabuyabo, spoke of the unique challenges of the new year.

"Each year brings its own set of challenges. Last year was monumental for us as the first-time champions from Kakamega County. We’re focusing on player development and ensuring our young team maintains the legacy.

“Despite losing to strong teams in the past, we’ve grown gradually, winning the county title in 2017 and defending our regional title amidst challenges. This year, we are ready for anything. Our preparation has focused on playing the best, improving skills, and ensuring our players compete at the highest level," Wabuyabo said.

In basketball, a riveting showdown is expected as defending champions Laiser Hill square off against Dagoretti High School in a repeat of last year’s final, promising an intense battle from the onset.

Butere Girls basketball team. [Courtesy]

Similarly, in girls' basketball, Butere Girls, the champions from the Western region, are pitted against Nyakach Girls from Nyanza Region. Butere Girls' coach, Chris Odeke, speaks to the importance of a strong start.

"To retain our title, we must hit the ground running. It’s about setting a high standard from the first game and maintaining that momentum. Our girls are ready, and we aim to start with a victory," Odeke said.

In rugby, the spotlight shines on defending champions Butula Boys as they face off against Kisii School, the champions of Nyanza, in a highly anticipated Group A clash.

Butula Boys High School rugby team and technical bench.[Butula Boys]

Butula Boys, hailing from the Western Region, enter the match with confidence and a game plan aimed at securing an early advantage.

Butula coach Fredrick Shimenga said: "Our strategy is built on solid defence and quick counter-attacks. We respect Kisii School's prowess, but we are here to defend our title and start strong."

Hospital Hill warmUp before handball match during Term 1 games handball at Starehe Boys Center in Nairobi. March 20, 2024. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

In handball, Hospital Hill High School are buzzing with anticipation and are eager to translate the Nairobi regional success into national triumph.

Emmanuel Wabule, the architect behind Hospital Hill's handball prowess, expressed his team's targets, objectives, and goals ahead of the national finals.

"Our aim is clear: to build on our regional dominance and make a mark at the national level. Last year, we clinched the national title, but our performance at the East Africa games fell short of expectation. This year, we're focused on rectifying that," said Wabule.

Hospital Hill finds themselves in Group A alongside Kimilili Boys, Handege Secondary, and North Eastern. Wabule believes it's a fair pool they can top, setting the stage for the knockout stages.

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