Patiala, Aug 16 (IANS): The Federation Cup National Athletics Championships witnessed a sizzling start here as Rajasthan's Kheta Ram eclipsed the meet mark in the men's 5,000 metres with a brilliant 13:49.17 that erased Surender Singh's seven-year-old 13:51.64 record.
On the other hand, in the women's 5,000m, P. Jaisha defended her title clocking 15:54.21, the fastest time by an Indian woman this year, a tremendous improvement from her last year's winning mark of 16:39.43.
Meanwhile, national record holder Preeja Sreedharan (Kerala) finished runner-up with 16:23.07 while the bronze went to Maharashtra's Swati Gadhave (16:46.46).
In the men's 5000m race, ONGC runner Suresh Kumar (13:53.58) and Tamil Nadu's G. Lakshmanan (13:57.07) took the next two places whereas defending champion Nitender Singh Rawat (Uttarakhand) ended in eighth place with a distance 14:50.02. Inter-State champion Inderjit Patel missed a podium chance with his fourth place (14:22.99) finish.
Incidentally, both Kheta Ram and Suresh Kumar finished within the qualifying norm (13:54.11) fixed by Athletics Federation of India (AFI) as the selection guideline for the Asian Games.
National record-holder Tintu Luka intends to keep her best effort in the IAAF Continental Cup at Morocco next month as one of the four Indians on Asia-Pacific team and hence skipped the qualifying rounds in women's 800m.
Her Kerala teammate and training partner Jessy Joseph could not finish her race. Pramila Yadav from Uttar Pradesh was fastest (2:22.49) qualifier while Sini A. Markose (2:22.81) and inter-state champion Sushma Devi (2:25.49) had won the other two heats.
Long jumper Kumaravel Prem Kumar, who didn't have an impressive outing in the Lucknow Inter-State Championships and failed to enter the finals, made it this time by leading the qualifiers with a leap of 7.42m.
Other notable qualifier from the session was Om Prakash Singh (shot put, 18.21m), just ahead of Universiade silver medallist Inderjeet Singh (18.10m).
The women's 400m hurdles heats witnessed two athletes from Karnataka gearing up for a summit clash in the finals as M. Arpitha clocked a personal best 58.87 seconds to win the first race ahead of much experienced Anu Raghavan of Kerala (59.14) while reigning Asian Games champion Ashwini Akkunji ran a fast 58.45 sec to win the next heat.
Ashwini won the Lucknow title with a time of 57.43 secs and holds a personal best 56.15, clocked in Guangzhou Asiad four years ago.
In the evening session, namesakes Manpreet Kaur (both hail from Punjab) clinched the first two spots in women's shot put by heaving the 4 kg iron ball to 16.20m and 15.06m respectively while state-mate Navjeet Kaur Dhillon, representing ONGC, filled the podium with a 14.16m toss.
Interestingly, the winner Manpreet's mark was the third best in the Federation Cup history after her predecessors Harbans (16.94m) and Harpreet Kaur's (16.22m) effort in 1997.