Previews01 Feb 2024

Debutants Ebenyo and Anyango seek home glory at Sirikwa Classic


Daniel Ebenyo at Campaccio (© Quinten Lafort)

Daniel Ebenyo and Emmaculate Anyango Acholi are among the leading athletes in action as the World Athletics Cross Country Tour Gold makes a stop in Kenya's Great Rift Valley for the Sirikwa Classic Cross Country on Saturday (3).

It is the penultimate Gold meeting in this season’s World Cross Country Tour and the senior men’s 10km race in Eldoret promises to be a cracking event.    

World 10,000m and half marathon silver medallist Ebenyo will seek a strong debut performance on home soil as he targets his second Gold label victory. The 28-year-old Ebenyo, competing at the Sirikwa Classic for the first time, opened his cross-country campaign with a 29:16 victory at the Campaccio-International in January.   

He will face strong competition from world U20 cross country champion Ishmael Kipkurui and their compatriots Stanley Waithaka, Nicholas Kipkorir Kimeli, Ronald Kwemoi and Sabastian Sawe, the world half marathon champion. 

Kipkurui placed fourth at the Elgoibar Juan Muguerza International Cross Country in January. Sawe, who finished seventh and won the senior team title at last year’s World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, will be running his first cross country competition since February last year.    

Kwemoi will be seeking his second World Cross Country Tour Gold label victory following his win at the Cross Internacional de Italica in Seville in November. The Seville win came two weeks after he came second in the Cross Internacional de Atapuerca, another Gold event in Spain.    

World 5km bronze medallist Kimeli will make his second appearance, hoping to improve his second-place finish in 2022. Kimeli also won team gold at the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst. 

World 3000m steeplechase bronze medallist Abraham Kibiwot is also expected to compete, while 2022 world 10,000m silver medallist Waithaka returns to the Sirikwa Classic after dropping out last year from an injury that kept him out of the World Championships.    

The 2km mixed relay has attracted key athletes such as world 800m silver medallist Emmanuel Wanyonyi and Abel Kipsang, among others.   

The senior women’s line up will be led by the world’s second fastest woman over 10km, Anyango. The 22-year-old finished second in a time of 28:57 at the 10K Valencia Ibercaja in January, becoming only the second woman in history to run 10km under 29 minutes. Saturday will be her Sirikwa Classic debut. 

Grace Loibach Nawowuna, who was fourth at the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, will also headline the 10km senior race. The 20-year-old, who won the 2022 Kenyan cross country title, is seeking home glory by bettering her third-place finish from Elgoibar. 

Other Kenyan athletes expected to compete are marathoner Joyciline Jepkosgei, who finished fourth in Chicago in October, plus world half marathon bronze medallist Catherine Amanang’ole, Janeth Chepngetich and Joan Kipyatich. Chepngetich came third at the Great Chepsaita Cross Country Run, a Bronze label event, while Kipyatich was runner-up at last year’s Dublin Marathon. 

Norwegian Hanne Mjoen Maridal, second at the Nordic Cross Country Championships, also forms part of the elite women’s field. More than 10 countries will be represented in the four international competitions. 

Athletics Kenya will use this penultimate leg of the World Cross Country Tour Gold to select its team for the African Cross Country Championships slated for 25 February in Tunis. 

The Sirikwa Classic also incorporates age-grade competitions for boys and girls aged between 5-16 years competing in distances between 500m to 2km. The masters' athletes aged 50 and above will compete in 1km. The 2km mixed relay selection races will complete the discretional events before the four international competitions – U20 men and women and senior men and women – are staged in the afternoon.

Athletics Kenya President Lt. Gen. (Rtd) Jackson Tuwei affirmed the importance of having age group competitions at the Sirikwa Classic.  

"These are people who bring more activities within the event, it is an outing at the same time as it is a competition," he said. "Remember, young athletes either have not discovered themselves or we have also not discovered them. So, this is an opportunity for both of us to discover."

Organisers have made a minor change to the course by removing the water jump. The total prize money has also been increased to USD 93,457.94. 

Michelle Katami for World Athletics

Sirikwa Classic Cross Country Gold schedule (times GMT) 

10:00 U20 women 6km 
10:30 U20 men 8km 
11:20 senior women 10km 
12:00 senior men 10km