Girls made a dramatic entry to the ranks of Standard Eight examinations top performers, dominating top slots in the Rift Valley.
And the reigning queen in the region in this year's Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations whose results were released Monday, was June Jeptoo Koech of Sangalo Central Primary School in Nandi County, who scored 439 marks to emerge the toast of the region.
Nationally, she was second, sharing that crown with two others.
Her feat was made even sweeter by the fact that she was in a public school, dismantling the trend that best performance obtains in private schools.
Following closely in her footsteps were three candidates from the South Rift: James Githuku and Derric Prince of Highpeak and Caleb Sameri of Lizar Schools, Nakuru, all scored 436 marks.
The trio was followed by Hebon Mang'ongo Orangi of Kagaki School, also in Nakuru County, who obtained 435 marks.
Overall, the best candidate nationally was Andy Michael Munyiri of Damcrest Schools in Thogoto, Kikuyu, who scored 440 marks.
In second place was the threesome of Flavian Onyango of Chakol Girls in Busia County, June Cheptoo Koech of Sangalo Central in Nandi County and Sean Michael Ndung'u of Kitengela International School. They all scored 439 marks.
But this year's top grades were below last year's where the best candidates -- Olive Mwea Wachira of Riara Road Primary in Nairobi and Rawlings Odhiambo Aketch of Kakamega Hill School -- both scored 453 marks.
In 2017, the best candidate was Goldalyn Kakuya of St Annes Junior School, Lubao, in Kakamega, who had 455 marks. Performance at the top declined compared to previous years.
Some 9,770 candidates obtained 400 marks and above, which was a drop from last year's 12,205 and 9,846 in 2017.
Even so, the number of those scoring between 301 and 400 rose slightly to 243,320 compared to 223,862 last year.
PERFORMANCE PER SUBJECT
But the notable feat this time round was the splendid performance of public school candidates.
Three candidates obtained the second highest mark at 439, two of them, girls, were from public schools.
The duo was Flavian Onyango of Chakol Girls in Busia County and June Cheptoo Koech of Sangalo Central in Nandi County.
Releasing the results Monday, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha commended public schools for stellar performance, overcoming hurdles to post good grades.
"That public school candidates matched their private school candidates is proof that our Free Primary Education Programme has come of age and that our teachers are excelling in spite of the higher enrolment. It is also evident that girls are competing favourably against boys for top honours," said Prof Magoha.
The results were released at Mtihani House on Dennis Pritt Road, Nairobi. A total of 1,083,456 candidates sat the exams in 26,284 centres countrywide.
There were 543,582 boys and 539,874 girls. This was a slight increase over last year's 1,052,344 candidates consisting of 527,294 males and 525,070 females.
Candidates did better in four out of the six subjects on offer -- English, Kiswahili, Kenya Sign Language, Social Studies and Religious Education. Performance lapsed in mathematics and science.
In terms of gender, boys led in maths, science and social studies and religious education while girls excelled in English, Kiswahili and Kenya Sign Language.
There were 2,407 candidates with special needs and the best of them scored 414 marks, while some 211 had between 300 and 400 marks.
"I wish to emphasise that the ministry will continue to implement interventions that will help our special needs children to access and do well in their education," said Prof Magoha.
June Jeptoo Koech's sterling performance stirred residents of Kipchawat village in Uasin Gishu County into revelries.
When the Nation team visited her local shopping centre relatives and neighbours were carrying her shoulder high as song and dance filled the air.
An elated Koech, who wants to join Pangani Girls High School, said that she was hopeful of doing well in the examination but did not expect to get 439 marks.
"I thank God for the impressive results. I had always expected to perform well in the national examination. I wanted to put Rift Valley on the national map. There was a boy who used to beat me in my class but I floored him at last," said the soft spoken girl who plans to be a journalist like his father Jonathan Komen.
Other top candidates from the Rift were Letecia Awino, Tracy Moraa and Michael Nkirote of Lions Primary, who scored 432 marks each.
Following them was Esther Nyakweya of Moi Primary, Kabarak, with 431 marks. The others were Moywaywa Lilian of Lizar and Faith Chepkoech of Blessed Academy, Narok, both with 430 marks.
In general, private schools took most of the top positions in the South Rift.
Some of the best performing schools were Lizar Schools, Little Friends Academy, St Peter's Elite in Gilgil, Christ the King, Kagaki School Rongai, Radiance Academy, Njoro Precious School and Highpeak Junior Academy.
They posted the highest number of candidates with more than 400 marks.
At Lizar, other top performers were Elvin Njoroge and Esther Jeptoo with 429 marks.
At Little Friend's, Remmy Githinji garnered 425 marks followed by Alvin Muraya and Alex Chege, both with 423 marks.
Moi Primary School, Kabarak, had more than 80 candidates out of 179 with 400 marks and above.
Lizar School had 17 candidates with more than 400 marks, with Little Friends Academy having 34 candidates with more than 400 marks.
Nyahururu's John Paul 2 Primary School in Laikipia County also did well, producing the best girl in the county, Patience Wanja, who scored 423 marks.
She was followed by Mark Wainaina who scored 422 marks. The best performing public school was 91 Municipality Primary School, whose best candidate William Kiarie scored 419 marks, followed by Princess Wangeci with 415 marks.
She was followed closely by Michael Muchemi who scored 414 marks. Candidates, parents and teachers attributed the success to hard work and cooperation.
Pupils from private academies in Narok County dominated top positions.
The top performers, most of them girls, were from Narok Blessed, Narok County Academy, Legacy Schools and St Mary's Academy.
In Narok, another good performer was Paul Kerema of Blessings Academy who obtained 425 marks. The school had more than five candidates with over 400 marks.
At the Narok County Academy, Debora Teyia scored 415 marks, while at Harmony School William Yiale, emerged top with 412 marks.
In the North Rift, the best performing counties were Nandi, West Pokot and Baringo.
They produced the bulk of candidates in the top 50 positions in the region.
The top performing schools in the region were Sangalo Central Primary School in Nandi, Little Friends Academy in Mogotio, Kapenguria Town View Academy, Little Lambs in Eldoret Kapsabet High Primary School and Bishop Muge Academy in Nandi.