Kenyans returned home with seven titles to their credit as the East Africa Secondary Schools Games concluded over the weekend here in Bujumbura. As expected, Kenyans bagged volleyball and hockey (both boys and girls) titles and crowned it with the boys rugby and basketball titles. Volleyball was the most interesting as Malava (girls) and Cheptil (boys) bagged both titles.
Malava Girls rocked Cheptil 3-1 (25-17, 23-25, 25-21, 25-22) in an all Kenyan final while Cheptil Boys proved to Rwandan side Indatwa they are a still a force to reckon with a 3-0 (25-20, 25-18, 25-22) victory. Against Cheptil, Malava were forced to put their act together to get past their equally formidable rivals. While Malava won the first set easily, Cheptil comprising of among others Phosica Kasisi, Lillian Chepkemei and Lydia Jepkosgei gave them a run for their money in the second set which they won.
The two subsequent sets went in favour of Malava. The match could have gone the other way had Cheptil not panicked at crucial moments. But while Cheptil girls lost, their boys ignored the prominent presence of former Kenyan national coach Paul Bitok on the Indatwa's bench to hand him and his Rwandese side a 3-0 defeat. Unlike the semis where Cheptil looked less inspired, this time they were water tight. Sila Kipruto rose to the occasion and inspired Julius Sang, Benjamin Yego and Rodgers Kipyego to tower over their opponents.
However, credit to the Rwandese too as they went down fighting.
Rugby was equally dominated by Kenyans as Kakamega High ensured gold for the country. The Kenya Western province school, blanked Uganda's Hana 32-0 to snatch the title they won last year. Mang'u beat Maseno 10-3 to add bronze to Kakamega's feat. Like volleyball, rugby would have been a Kenyan affair had Mang'u not lost by a point (13-12) to Hana in the semis. Kerugoya and St. Anthony emerged queens and kings of hockey.
The event, played on a round robin format, saw Kerugoya seal the title with 10 points while St. Anthony collected 15 points in their unbeaten streak. However, the stiff competition experienced in hockey must have been a wake-up call for Kenyan teams. Ugandans are catching up fast. In girls hockey, it was an all Kenyan affair as Kapkolei from Rift Valley took silver and Asumbi (bronze). After an erratic start, Kamusinga Boys were made to wait until the last minute to know their fate as arithmetic went into full use to determine the second-placed team.
Kamusinga and Uganda's Kololo tied on points and goal difference, but the Western Kenya side had a better goal aggregate (9-8) thus pushing Kololo to third. In the boys basketball final, Laiser Hill beat LTS Luc 99-37 to return home with the title. However, Shimba Hills lost the girls final to Lycee SOS by a point. They were leading for the better part of the proceedings. Coach Phillip Onyango conceded defeat, saying his girls had fought a good fight.
He said a slight slump in the third quarter after leading 13-9 in the first quarter and tying 13-13 in the second, disorganised their performance. In football St. Anthony finished fourth after losing 5-3 on post match penalties following a 1-1 draw. Tartar were unimpressive, finishing third in the girls football.
Jogoo Road were no better in handball as they finished third. This time round, athletics was low key. Ugandan schools scooped the bulk of the medals. Kenya's general performance in Bujumbura leaves not doubt that with good management Kenyans can look beyond athletics in future Commonwealth and Olympic Games.