Mogonga High School, the breeding ground of Kenya’s sprint talents

Mogonga High School, the breeding ground of Kenya’s sprint talents

 Gilbert Kiprotich in Kisii

Discussions bordering  on sprints in Kenya can never be complete without a mention of Mogonga High School in Kisii County.

Located some 19 kilometres from Keroka town and 36km from Kisii town, the school is fast establishing itself as a powerhouse in the short and middle-distance races not only in the greater Nyanza region but across the country.

Started in 2011, the camp has produced household names in sprints including national 400m champion Mary Moraa, African Games 400m hurdles champion Vanice Kerubo and hurdler David Saruni just to mention a few from the long list.

According to school principal-cum-coach Haron Onchong’a, the then dwindling standards of athletics in the Nyanza region was the motivation behind the formation of the camp.

“By then our region (Nyanza) was being beaten at the national championships by other regions especially Rift Valley and thus we sat down with coach Valentine Orare together with Peter Angwenyi and decided to set up this camp. We initially used to take our athletes to Keringet before we fully settled here,” explained Ochong’a.

Like any other project, they faced early struggles but it was not long before the camp started yielding fruits. In 2014 the camp started sending its students to the national levels.

It was however in 2017 that their star shone brightest when they sent nine athletes to the national team for the World Under-18 Championships held in Nairobi.

Among them were Moraa, Elijah Mathew, race walker Dominic Ndingiti and Saruni who was team Kenya’s captain at the global event.

With the population in the camp increasing by each passing day thanks to the camp’s prowess, why is their success more pronounced in sprints?

“First, it is important to note that people from Nyanza are very good in short races due to their stature and that is why you find the likes of Olympian Charles Asati having shone long time ago. For the region it (the talent) is innate and we’re just trying to unlock the untapped potential,” Onchong’a said.

Onchong’a further revealed that athletes motivation is a key factor in their growth with the school offering  scholarship to any student who reaches the national level in schools’ competition.

Athletics Kenya selected the camp among the 14 country-wide camps to prepare junior athletes ahead of next year’s World Under-20 Championships slated for Nairobi.

It is in this programme that exciting prospects are sharpening their skills ahead of national trials to be held next year May, two months before the World Championships.

National 400m champion in Secondary schools Loice Morara, national primary schools 400m hurdles champion Naomi Kennedy and Alice Obaga (100m and 400m hurdles) are among the probables for the global event.

Others are national  secondary schools 400m champion Brian Tinega and Mercy Oketch, Discuss and Shot-Put thrower Linda Kageha and Youth Olympics 800m bronze medalist Francis Leshoo who has already secured a scholarship to study at the Clouds Community College in the USA.

Alongside Onchong’a, Valentine Orare is one of the coaches behind the institution’s success as he is the one who moves across the country scouting for budding talents.

Despite dominating athletics, the school is also becoming a force in volleyball with the boys’ team having clinched the national title after stunning Lelmokwo High School at the national championships.

With the World Under-20 championships drawing closer, Onchonga is hoping to produce at least 10 athletes in the national team.

The author is RMS lead athletics writer