What you need to know:
- Athletics Kenya Thursday indicated that 1525 athletes had registered online for the meeting by noon and more were expected to register by the close of business at 3pm, making it the largest turnout ever
- Away from the sprints, the men’s 5,000m final on Friday looks appealing with former World Under-20 5,000m champion Edward Zakayo and two-time World 10,000m silver medallist Paul Tanui highlighting the event
- The 2022 World Under-20 1,500m champion Vincent Keter, experienced 2014 Commonwealth Games 1,500m champion James Magut and Cornelius Kiplagat are favourites in men's 1,500m
A record over 1,500 athletes are set to battle out in the second leg of Athletics Kenya Track and Field Meeting starting Friday at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi.
Athletics Kenya Thursday indicated that 1525 athletes had registered online for the meeting by noon and more were expected to register by the close of business at 3pm, making it the largest turnout ever.
John Tirop, who is in charge of AK statistics and results said that the most they have registered for an event in AK meetings is 1,000 during the third leg last year.
“For instance, during the third leg, we had 17 heats in the men's 100m and seven heats in the women's 100m, and most were full.
"We had six heats in the men's 5,000m each with more than 10 athletes during the same leg last year,” said Tirop, adding that most meetings have had 700 to 900 entries. "This is for sure a huge entry that I have never recorded in the past."
The turnout includes 370 sprinters, which will now force the organisers to have qualifying rounds exempting the likes of Commonwealth and Africa 100 metres champion Ferdinand Omanyala and Africa 100m bronze medallist Henricho Bruintjies from South Africa from the initial stages.
"This is incredible since we are likely to have around 1,000 entries before the close of business and this calls for proper planning and that is why we called for early registration unlike before," said AK director of youth and development, Barnaba Korir.
Besides the "Omanyalamania" effect, Korir said that the high turnout has been necessitated by World Athletics' directive to have athletes qualify for the World Athletics Championships from their sanctioned races.
Away from the sprints, the men’s 5,000m final on Friday looks appealing with former World Under-20 5,000m champion Edward Zakayo and two-time World 10,000m silver medallist Paul Tanui highlighting the event.
It will be the first track race for Zakayo since finishing fourth in 10,000m during the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, August last year.
“This will be my first track event this season and I am excited about the great opportunities ahead this year,” said Zakayo, who hopes to compete at this year’s World Athletics Championships programmed for August 19 to 29 in Budapest, Hungary.
Zakayo missed out last year after he finished fourth in the 10,000m during the trials for the World Athletics Championships held July last year in Oregon, United States.
“Ï had been bogged down my injuries that almost led me to depression but I am glad I feel great and I can foresee a good season this year,” said the 21-year-old Zakayo, who will try to qualify in both 5,000m and 10,000m for Budapest.
Besides Zakayo and Tanui, the 2015 and 2017 World 10,000m silver medallist, the 5,000m contest has also attracted Samuel Kibathi, who is fresh from winning the National Cross country and Sirikwa Classic Cross Country under-20 titles and 2016 World Under-20 5,000m bronze medallist Wesley Ladema.
Women’s 10,000m and 3,000m steeplechase finals will be staged on Friday in day one action that will also coincide with trials for the East and Central Africa Under-18 and Under-20 Championships.
Eldoret City Marathon champion Emily Chebet will highlight the women’s 10,000m final that will also feature former Commonwealth Games 10,000m champion Lucy Kabuu and Agnes Mumbua, who is fresh from finishing seventh at Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon on Saturday in the United Arab Emirates.
The men and women's 1,500m and 400m semi-finals will be staged on Friday.
The 2022 World Under-20 1,500m champion Vincent Keter, experienced 2014 Commonwealth Games 1,500m champion James Magut and Cornelius Kiplagat are favourites in men's 1,500m.
Commonwealth Games 4x400m bronze medallists Boniface Mweresa, Wiseman Were and William Rayian are some of the favourites in the 400m.