By RENALDO DORSETT
TO follow up their series of record-breaking performances last year, one of the greatest distance running countries in the world will field a star- studded team for the 2015 BTC/IAAF World Relays Bahamas.
Kenya recently hosted its trials for the upcoming event and announced a 30-member team which includes many of last year’s record breakers on the men’s side and a host of newcomers on the women’s side.
Team Kenya will be led by two-time 1,500m world champion Asbel Kiprop, 800m Olympic bronze medallist Timothy Kitum and 800m World Junior Champion Alfred Kipketer.
With the 4x1,500m relay replaced by the distance medley, it created some shift on the women’s side with no members of last year’s squad making the trip this time around.
In 2014, Team Kenya walked away from the two-day competition with a pair of new world records and wins in three of the four middle distance relays contested over the two-day meet at the Thomas A Robinson National Stadium.
The seldom seen 4x800m and 4x1,500m events took centre stage as the backdrop of junkanoo music inspired the athletes in their race against the clock.
For each world record, the Kenyans took home an additional $50,000 world record bonus on top of their $50,000 first-place prize money.
In the men’s 1500m, the team of Kiprop, Collins Cheboi, Silas Kiplagat, James Magut and held off chief rival the United States and Ethiopia to set a new world mark in 14.22.22s.
Keyna held the previous world record of 14:36.23s, set in 2009 in Brussels.
This year in the medley, Kiprop will be joined by Ronald Kwemoi, Ferguson Rotich and Abednego Chesebe.
The second world record for Kenya came from the women’s 4x1,500m team as they highlighted day one with their record-setting performance in a time of 16.33.58s.
Mercy Cherono, Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon, Irene Jelagat and Hellen Onsando Obiri dominated from gun to tape en route to the world record.
This year’s medley team will include Selah Jepleting, Sylvia Chesebe, Virginia Nyambura and Joyce Zachary.
Kenya won the first gold medal in World Relays history when they took the men’s 4x800m final in 7:08.40s. They fell six seconds shy in their bid for the coveted world record mark of 7:02.43, set in Brussels in 2006.
The Kenyan quartet included Alfred Kipketer, Ferguson Rotich, Sammy Kirongo and Job Koech Kinyor.
In 2015, Kipketer will return to defend the title and chase the record alongside Nicholas Kiplagat, Jeremiah Mutai, Kiptum, and Bernard Kipyegon.
Sammy Rono, who led the team last year to the Bahamas, continues in the role of head coach assisted by Stephen Mwaniki with former Olympic 1500m champion Noah Ngeny appointed team manager.
It will also be a new slate for the women’s 4x800m team who finished second to the US last year. They will look to improve their standing with Annet Mwanzi, Sheila Chesang, Eglay Nalianya, Sylvia Cherop and Purity Cherotich.
Kenya, who will again be led by head coach Sammy Rono, will also contest the men’s 4x200m.
This year’s BTC/IAAF World Relays is scheduled for May 2-3. There are a few changes with the starting times on both days moved from 5pm to 7pm to accommodate the fans who were affected by the scorching heat in the eastern section of the stands.
As previously mentioned, the 4 x 1,500 metres has been replaced by the sprint medley (400, 800, 1,200 and 1,500m) and the 4 x 400m relays will bring the curtain down on the competition.
The top eight finishers this year will qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 5-21.