• Mogonga was founded in 2012 by immediate former principal Haron Onchong’a, retired athlete Valentine Orare, Athletics Kenya Nyanza North chairman Peter Angwenyi and Gladys Keyaga.
• Some athletes are sent to the camp by teachers, AK officials while others take themselves to the school since it has become a renowned athletics powerhouse.
Just eight years since it’s formation, Mogonga PAG High School Athletics Camp in Kisii County is emerging as a force to reckon with.
The hitherto little known school is now a household name in breeding and churning out sprinters and field event athletes.
Mogonga was founded in 2012 by immediate former principal Haron Onchong’a, retired athlete Valentine Orare, Athletics Kenya Nyanza North chairman Peter Angwenyi and Gladys Keyaga.
“We used to take athletes to Keringet Camp, Nakuru for training during holidays. However, AK Youth Committee member Barnabas Kitilit advised us to start our own because taking athletes to Keringet was expensive,” said Onchong’a. They used to pay Sh2, 000 per athlete to train at the famed Keringet camp.
“Our athletes were always playing second fiddle at national championships, which informed our decision to invest on their periodical journeys to Keringet. After a year of such training, we started going head to head with our rivals from Rift Valley,” Onchong’a added.
However, there was a challenge in establishing the camp because the school did not have boarding facilities forcing them to hire rental houses near the school during holidays but later they eventually built makeshift dormitories.
The venture has borne fruits according to Onchonga, who was in February moved to Uwamurondo Hill School in Migori. He was replaced by Patrick Kirui.
“Since 2015, we have been dominating sprints and relays up to the national level. Our biggest moment was in 2017 when our camp had nine athletes in Team Kenya to the World Under 18 Championships in Nairobi,” noted Onchong’a.
It was during the WU18 that sprint prodigy Mary Moraa announced her arrival to the world winning a maiden international medal, a silver in the 400m race. Moraa later represented Kenya at Africa Under 20 championships in Ivory Coast where she won gold.
During the All African Games, she narrowly missed a podium finish by finishing home fourth and during the World Athletics Championships in Qatar, she reached the semifinals. She has since shifted to 800m and is looking forward to the Tokyo Olympic Games in Japan next year.
During the same championship, Mogonga’s David Saruni captained Team Kenya. Saruni has since moved to the US on a sports scholarship at Western Kentucky University where he also participates in 400m, 600m and 800m beside his speciality, hurdles.
Other pioneers at the camp are sprinters Elijah Matayo and Ronald Afia, thrower Joseph Nyakundi, Esther Borura who has since joined Kenya Defence Forces. Others are Japan-based Dominic Nyairo, Benuel Mogeni and Paul Onyiego.
All Africa Games 400m hurdles champion Venice Nyagisera highlights the second group of successful athletes from Mogonga together with World Youth Olympics bronze medalist Francis Leshoo, Africa Under 20 silver medalists Linda Kageha and Brian Tinega. Others are Esther Kennedy and Dennis Omari, who joined KDF last year.
The third lot is led by national secondary schools 400m champion Mercy Oketch, the current school games captain Loice Morara and Sarah Orobi, who have been to national championships.
Other upcoming athletes are javelin thrower Pelinah Barongo, race-walker Purity Awuor, hurdlers Alice Obaga and Yuventina Nyangena, sprinters Lillian Bungu and Henry Seme. The athletes are identified during primary school games by coaches Orare and Ronald Mogaka.
Another veteran coach Charles Obwogi has been behind the success of the camp but has since moved to establish another at Bishop Mugendi Nyakegogi Secondary.
Some athletes are sent to the camp by teachers, AK officials while others take themselves to the school since it has become a renowned athletics powerhouse.
“Those who represent the school at national championships and others from vulnerable backgrounds are given scholarships. Initially, it was not easy to convince the Board of Management on the scholarships but I’m happy they agreed,” Onchong’a added.
Onchong’a hailed Athletics Kenya Youth Development Committee led by the chairman Barnabas Korir and secretary Kitilit. Kitilit is a former Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association chairman and founder of Torongo Athletics Camp in Baringo County.
“They have been the force beyond this camp and I want to thank them for identifying Mogonga as one of the camps to train athletes for the WU20. They closely monitor and encourage us,” said Onchong’a, who is also a coach.
Korir said the camp will help restore Gusii-land’s lost glory in athletics.
“This region used to dominate athletics and I’m confident in the next few years, athletes from this region will recapture this dominance especially in short races because of what Mogonga and other camps in the region are doing,” said Korir.
“We also want to focus on field events. We already have two champions from here, the world U-18 400m silver medalist Moraa and Africa 400m hurdles gold medalist Nyagisera. We used this camp in 2017 and we were impressed,” said Korir when he visited the camp.
Onchong’a is happy that his predecessor Kirui has embraced the project. Kirui was at hand to support his charges during the Kisii County championships which Mogonga dominated, alongside St Peter’s Keberesi, another renowned camp.
Kirui, however, notes that running the camp is expensive and it needs support.
“Most of the athletes don’t pay fees and the school is small thus the need for support from stakeholders to run the camp,” said Kirui. He further added that the school lacks a standard 400m track, forcing them to use the one at the neighbouring Getacho Primary School.
Morara, the school’s games captain said: “We are happy that the new principal is supporting us achieve our dreams. We thank him together with our former principal, Onchong’a.”
She also hailed Moraa and Nyagisera saying they inspire them. “We are following in their footsteps.”
Besides athletics, Mogonga are the reigning national secondary schools boys’ volleyball champions. They lifted the title in their second attempt in Kisumu, edging Lelmokwo by 3-1.
Last year, the school represented Kenya at the Federation of East Africa Secondary Schools Sports Association games in Arusha, Tanzania where they finished fourth on debut.
The school has also lifted the Kisii County netball title for eight straight years. However, the regional title has eluded them.
Following the school’s excellent performance in sports, Kisii Governor James Ongwae announced the elevation of the institution to a centre of excellence for sports.
“We are determined to restore our lost glory in athletics. I’m happy with what Mogonga is doing in identifying and developing young talent. I was especially impressed by the sensational Mary Moraa who won a silver medal during the World Under 18 Championships in Nairobi in 2017,” added Ongwae.
Moganga athletes keep up the fire despite Covid-19
Mogonga PAG High School athletes are training hard despite the coronavirus pandemic which has hit the world.
The athletes are hoping to represent Kenya at the rescheduled World Under 20 Championships. The championship was supposed to be held in Nairobi in July but was postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Due to the ban on all sporting activities, the athletes are training on their own or in groups of two due to social-distancing requirements by the government, one way of containing the spread of coronavirus.
According to head coach Valentine Orare, they send training programs to the athletes and then follow them keenly.
“Those who come around are taken through their paces by the coaches. Those from far off areas are sent training drills via WhatsApp,” said Orare.
National Secondary Schools 400m champion Mercy Oketch says: “We were disappointed by the indefinite postponement of the WU20 due to coronavirus. We have to continue training on our own to maintain fitness.”
Initially, the biannual championships were scheduled for July 7-12 at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.
Oketch is eyeing to make her international bow during the junior championships and was among the 94 athletes who trained at the camp, financed by the government through the Athletics Kenya Youth and Development Committee in December.
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe recently maintained that Kenya will host the event although a date is yet to be arrived at.
Oketch and Linda Kageha are among probables to represent Kenya when the WU-20 Championships are held. Other than sprints, Kageha is also a discus and shot put thrower.
Other probables are hurdlers Yuventina Nyangena and Alice Obaga, javelin thrower Pelinah Barongo, race-walker Purity Awuor, high jumper Sarah Ondieki, sprinters Sarah Orobi and Morara.
On the boy’s category are junior internationals Brian Tinega and Francis Leshoo, Maiyo Kipruto (triple and long jump), Victor Kiplimo (hammer), Okumu Pila (400m/800m), Elijah Kiprotich (200m/400m), Dancan Kengere (400m/800m), Ochieng Omondi (shot put/discus)
The institution is located in Bobasi constituency, Kisii County about 36km from Kisii town and 20km from Keroka.