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Well done, guys: Kenyans shine at Penn Relays, never mind Brigid, Kipchoge feat in London

IN a top class relay meet, Kenyan boys have beaten USA, Jamaica and Canada! Kenya is not just about marathons, after all. In any case, some marathoners were not having such a good time this weekend; in Hamburg (Germany) where the Ethiopians were supreme. But well done, first, Brigid Koskei the women’s winner in London — with a personal best 2:18:20 — and of course Eliud Kipchoge with a men’s repeat and his fourth title.

This was some muscle-flexing. In the horizon, the big one cometh; next year, July 31 onwards, the Olympic marathons in Tokyo. All-in, no place to hide, no pace-setters. Japan were picking their Olympic team in Hamburg.

Kenyan boys, honoured by invite to one of the world’s most spectacular meetings – Penn Relays – and they did not disappopint; upset USA, Jamaica and Canada to win the men’s sprint medley. From left: Mike Mokamba, Alfas Kishoyian, and Collin Kipruto, Collins Omae

Kenyan boys, honoured with invite to one of the world’s most spectacular meetings – Penn Relays – and they did not disapppoint; upset USA, Jamaica and Canada to win the men’s sprint medley relay. From left: Mike Mokamba, Collin Kipruto, Alfas Kishoyian and  Collins Omae

Throughout the city marathons this season, Ethiopia has been splitting it with Kenya. You can’t wait for Tokyo. It will be a lot of concern to Kenyans that apart from winner Eliud Kipchoge none other of theirs made the top 10 in London and that it was dominated by Ethiopians (five). This is not a repeat wished for in Tokyo, July next year.

The sensational multi-titled track British star, Mo Farah, finished fifth in London. A relative rookie in marathon running, alongside the Ethiopians, could he be the stronger person come the Olympics race in Tokyo?

Meanwhile, in the United States, Mike Mokamba, Alfas Kishoyian, Collins Omae and Collin Kipruto, in that order, scored a first, winning the men’s sprint medley relay (200m-200m-400m-800), starring at one of America’s most famous athletics meetings – the Penn Relays.

The four Kenyan men will have to return home and tell us how they felt, involvement in a furious USA v Jamaica war, where the Kenyan quartet shocked everyone, coming out on top.

The US women's team exchange the baton at the Penn Relays

The US women’s team exchange the baton at the Penn Relays

An astounded US Press would say: “Kenya picked up an unexpected win in the men’s sprint medley relay, hitting the line in 3:16.29. It marked the first time Kenya had won a USA v. the World race other than the distance medley. This “USA v World” meeting was really expected to be USA v Jamaica v Canada. Four Kenyan men gate-crashed a favourite American result book headed by the world record of; Carl Lewis, (20.3), Ferran Tyler (20.1), Benny Hollis (47.1) and Johnny Gray (1:43.3).

Kenyans can now get a taste of the bedlam that the Franklin Field crowd (48,195 folks) can generate whenever athletes from the United States and Jamaica take the track. The United States won three relays of the world competition but the ones that got away, including one taken by Kenya, rankled. The goings-on were highlighted:

The USA’s Chris Belcher, who made his debut on Saturday, got an immediate taste. It was the very first leg of the very first race, the men’s 4×100, and the 48,195 folks inside the ancient stadium were ready.

Brigid Koskei, above and below, wins in London ... Vivian Cheruiyot, Gladys Cherono and Mary Keitany were in the top 10

Brigid Koskei, above and below, wins in London … Vivian Cheruiyot, Gladys Cherono and Mary Keitany were in the top 10 

“When I was getting in the blocks, I was kind of on the Jamaican side and they said my name and Team USA Red and they started booing me a little bit,” said Belcher, a former star at North Carolina A&T. “So I just gave them a look and said, ‘We’ve got something for you guys.’

“After we won, I was on the other side where all the USA fans were, and they were just going crazy, screaming ‘USA,’ and they were kind of just kind of rubbing it in Jamaica’s face a little bit. But that’s the love of the competition.”

With Belcher leading off and veteran Mike Rodgers on the anchor leg, USA Red rolled to victory in 38.80 seconds, beginning the 20th annual competition amid strong, swirling winds that saw the United States split the six relays.

Eliud Kipchoge pounds London enroute a back-to-back victory and his fourth overall

Eliud Kipchoge pounds London enroute a back-to-back victory and his fourth overall

Team USA salvaged its only win on the women’s side in the last event, when Raevyn Rogers matched her scintillating 400-meter anchor leg of a year ago to overtake Jamaica for the sprint medley crown in 1 minute, 37.87 seconds and give the chanters of “U-S-A, U-S-A!” something to go home by.

“I feel like there was a little bit more pressure to defend,” said Rogers, who anchored her team to a world record last year at Penn, “but I feel like the momentum throughout the day, and seeing how it was kind of going back and forth between Jamaica and the USA, we kind of wanted to do what we had to do to get the title.”

The Jamaican women won two relays. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce led off the 4×100 team to a lead it never relinquished and the win in 43.19 seconds. Jamaica Gold, one of two Jamaican teams in the 4×400, received consistency throughout the lineup and breezed to the win in 3:28.94.

Kenya picked up an unexpected win in the men’s sprint medley relay, hitting the line in 3:16.29. It marked the first time Kenya had won a USA vs. the World race other than the distance medley.

Despite the split, the U.S. athletes seemed to enjoy themselves. Cherry went out into the carnival village before his race and distributed Team USA gear to college and high school runners while posing for pictures with anyone who asked.

“I was once that kid that used to go run to the pros and ask for pictures and gear and stalk them all over the place, and now I get to be the pro,” said Cherry, who starred at Louisiana State. “I make sure I take pictures with everyone I see. I just try to reach out to them and lead by example.”

Prince Harry with the triumphant Kenyans

Prince Harry with the triumphant Kenyans

The home nation’s other victory came in the men’s 4×400, where Michael Cherry made his team the one to beat with a second leg of 44.3 seconds, the fastest of anyone in the field. Team USA crossed the line first in 3:02.70.

“It was pretty much when I got the baton, I probably was like third-ish,” Cherry said. “I had talked to my coach and I just wanted to get out and make a gap early on the turn. Then in the backstretch, I wanted to kind of stretch it and then bring it home strong like I knew it could.”

Meanwhile at the London Marathon, Sir Mo Farah ended a week in which he was savaged by one distance running great by being blown away by another. Farah was bidding to win the Virgin Money London Marathon for the first time, but he could not live with the extraordinary Eliud Kipchoge who romped to a record fourth victory.

The forlon figure of Sir Mo Farah crossing the line in London in fifth place

The forlon figure of Sir Mo Farah crossing the line in London in fifth place

Farah’s preparations were marred by Wednesday’s explosive row with former distance star Haile Gebrselassie over an alleged robbery in the hotel owned by the retired Ethiopian. Gebrselassie, 46, responded to Farah’s claims with an astonishing statement alleging “multiple reports of disgraceful conduct” by the four-time Olympic champion and his entourage.

Farah’s camp insisted the unwelcome headlines would not affect the 36-year-old, and there was certainly no disgrace in finishing fifth in a time of two hours, five minutes and 39 seconds. But talk of overhauling Kenyan Kipchoge proved fanciful from around the 14-mile mark, when the 34-year-old put his foot on the gas. Kipchoge, winner in 2015, 2016 and last year, smashed his own course record in a time of two hours, two minutes and 37 seconds.

PENN RELAYS:

(USA v World)

Results:

Men’s Sprint Medley:

(200m-200m-400m-800m)

       
1  Kenya 3:16.21 Mike Mokamba, Alfas Kishoyian, Collins Omae (46.0), Collin Kipruto (1:47.16)
2  USA  Red 3:17.49 Remontay McClain, Marqueze Washington, Manteo Mitchell (47.2), Chris Giesting (1:48.50)
3  Jamaica 3:19.25 Chad Walker, Rasheed Dwyer, Rusheen McDonald (47.2), Daniel Glave (1:50.71)
4  Blue 3:20.15 Jamiel Trimble, Deshawn Marshall, Champ Page (46.5), Rob Ford (1:51.35)
5  Canada 3:21.72 Aaron Brown, Brendon Rodney, Benjamin Ayesu-Attah (46.8), Mohand Zine Khelaf (1:54.32)

LONDON MARATHON:

Top 10 Men’s results:

  1. Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) 2 hours 2 minutes 37 seconds
  2. Mosinet Geremew (ETH) 2:02:55
  3. Mule Wasihun (ETH) 2:03:16
  4. Tola Shura Kitata (ETH) 2:05:01
  5. Mo Farah (GBR) 2:05:39
  6. Tamirat Tola (ETH) 2:06:57
  7. Bashir Abdi (BEL) 2:07:03
  8. Leul Gebresilasie (ETH) 2:07:15
  9. Yassine Rachik (ITA) 2:08:05
  10. Callum Hawkins (GBR) 2:08:14

Top 10 Women’s results:

  1. Brigid Kosgei (KEN) 2:18:20
  2. Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN) 2:20:14
  3. Roza Dereje (ETH) 2:20:51
  4. Gladys Cherono (KEN) 2:20:52
  5. Mary Keitany (KEN) 2:20:58
  6. Emily Sisson (USA) 2:23:08
  7. Sinead Diver (AUS) 2:24:11
  8. Carla Salome Rocha (POR) 2:24:47
  9. Birhane Dibaba (ETH) 2:25:04
  10. Charlotte Purdue (GBR) 2:25:38

-Additional reporting by Correspondents and Agencies

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