Sheila Chepkirui stole the show at the 1st Betika Kericho County Cross Country meet held at Kericho Teachers Training Grounds on Saturday.
The races sponsored by Betika Betting Company featured 10km race for women and men categories and mixed relay competitions.
The seasoned athlete smashed the women’s 10km course record at Brasov, Romania during the Brasov Running Festival held on 25 September this year with a new record of 30:07 minutes.
The 2022 Commonwealth Games bronze medalist stayed strong all the way in the 10km race to the finish, crossing the line in 33.18 minutes ahead of Grace Laibach who came in second in 33.29 minutes, and Violah Chemweno coming in third in 33.47 minutes in a tight race of 67 contestants.
The 31-year-old athlete whose disciplines are the 10km and 21km races hopes to make a debut in the Valentia marathon in Spain slated for 4 December this year.
“I am grateful to Betika and it is my humble request that they continue sponsoring this event every year. I am training hard for my debut marathon before the end of this year in the Valentia marathon. Cross-country competitions have challenges but my speed helps in the race. Currently, I have a personal best time of 29.46 minutes and I am confident of doing better.” she said.
Prominent and upcoming athletes from Kericho, Nandi, Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot, Kisii, Nakuru, Bomet, Thika, Baringo, and Eldoret featured in the 10km women and men’s races and in mixed relay competition which included the reigning Africa Junior Women 2016 cross-country champion Miriam Chebet and three-time 1,500m World Champion Asbel Kiprop Ruto.
In the men’s 10km race Edwin Bett grabbed the number one slot with a personal best time of 29.32 minutes, Michael Kibet finished in second place in 29.40 minutes, and Bravin Kiprop came in third in 29.45 minutes.
Bravin Kiprop, 25, who clinched the third position in the 10km race said he was pleased with his performance as he had trained well.
Kiprop from Elgeyo Marakwet is already thinking of his next mission-the Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon 2022 to be held on 30 October.
“I am happy with my performance today and I thank God for this. It is my prayer that I will win in the Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon 2022,” said Kiprop.
The budding athlete with a gold medal under his belt after winning the Edo City Festival 10km race in 2021 hopes to improve on his personal best time of 29.00 minutes.
In the 4x400m mixed relay race, the Kericho team shined their way to victory in 44.02 seconds.
Josephine Chelangat, Beatrice Chepkoech, Geoffrey Kimutai, and Boaz Kiprugut impressed the cheering crowds as they breezed past their competitors to clinch the number one slot.
Athletics Kenya (AK) Senior Vice President Paul Mutwi who graced the event commended Betika while urging them to sponsor more competitions in the future.
“This is the highest paid event of this nature and we highly appreciate Betika for this gesture. In the future we would like the event to be spread not only in South Rift but in other areas covered by AK,” said Mutwi.
The top three winners in both male and female 10km races will bank their prize money of Sh 150,000, Sh 100,000 and Sh 75,000 following the completion of mandatory anti-doping procedures.
Betika head of branding Eric Mwiti said the prize monies will be availed to the top three finishers after confirming negative anti-doping results thus qualifying them to pick their cheques.
By Sarah Njagi