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Coronavirus: a double tragedy for junior runners

Coronavirus has dealt a double tragedy for Kenyan juniors, who have taken up running as their career at their tender age.

In the first tragedy, the juniors, who had the dream to run for the country at the Africa Cross country championships, came to a test when the Confederation of Africa Athletics (CAA) postponed the event due to the pandemic.

The second tragedy came in after the government through the ministry of Health postponing all schools sporting all school activities including sports. The juniors were to run for their respective schools at the regional championships.

South Rift’s runners from Tulwet secondary school, reigning World under 18 1,500m silver medallist Edna Jebitok, Africa Youth 3,000m silver medallist Debora Chemutai, national junior cross country champion Maurine Chelang’at, 2019 Kenya Primary Schools Sports Association (KPSSA) national  1,500m champion Purity Chepkirui, two-time national KPSSA Bernard Lang’at and two-time KPSSA silver medallist Benson Sigei were to represent their schools at the Rift Valley Secondary schools that were to be held this week but they were postponed.

The athletes who normally congregate during school holidays under the guardianship of Kibet Ng’etich will enjoy will not focus on training waiting for any information from the government.

Ng’etich said they will be waiting upon God because the pandemic is not easily contained.

“We wait upon God’s intervention to heal the situation and give our young ones an opportunity to compete,” said Ngetich.

He added that the athletes are training to run at the world under 20, Diamond Leagues and Continental Tour if the pandemic could have been contained.

“Top runners like Jebitok and Cherotich will be competing in Diamond Leagues starting from Doha on April 17th then the Continental Tour cum students are doing well both in class and in the co-curricular activities.

“If any child is talented and gets someone who can nurture his or her talent pays schools fees, provides transport, food, medical care among others, with such support, like a normal person, you have to perform well,” said Ng’etich.

Athletes from Kamwosor Junior Athletics Training Camp have also been affected that includes two time East Africa junior champion Agnes Jebet in under 20, Marion Cheruiyot (5km women) as well as Naomi Jeptoo while Shadrack Kipchirchir was to run in under 20 boys.

But that dream has come to a halt but head coach Ruth Jepchumba Bundotich was optimistic that the pandemic will come to an end to continue with the programme.

A teacher at Karusi Primary school said that some students will continue to train waiting any communication from the government.

“When the Africa cross country was cancelled, we thought that they will run at school s but all that has also been cancelled. It is a big blow but we have no option. We have decided to continue with the training as part of put routine,” said Jepchumbe.

Baringo’s Torongo Training Camp is another camp that faces closure due to the virus spread.

The camp is the home to the junior runners like Ismael Kirui in the under 18 boys, Gideon Rono under 20 men, Emmanuel Kiplagat in under 20 men, Lydia Jeruto mixed relay as well as Qualine Kiprop.

Coach Barbanas Kitilit said the management has decided that the camp be closed.

“As much as we are facing such uphill task with the virus, the athletes are still training waiting for any race after the pandemic is over. Luckily the majority of the athletes stay at my home so if we close the camp, they will still be here with me. But we are praying that good thing will come ahead of us,” said Kitilit who is also the Baringo County Athletics Kenya chairman.

Budding runners from North rift like Winnie Kimutai and Jacob Krop are others that have been affected by the virus.

The duo would have made their debut at the continental championships, competing in 6km and 8km under 20 women and men respectively.

The Form Two student at Kapsait secondary school in Elgeyo Marakwet County was ambitious to run for the country.

After making his name during 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, Jacob Krop will be making his debut too for the Africa cross country.

The form four student from Chewoyet secondary school in West Pokot County, made into the Kenya team to compete in 5,000m after Robert Kibet and Daniel Simiyu failed to meet anti-doping requirements.

He was the finalists at the world events alongside Africa cross country junior champion Nicholas Kimeli, who will be returning to the continental show as a senior runner, who cut into team Kenya during the national trials.

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