Japhet Kipyegon Korir wins the senior men's race at the 2013 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Bydgoszcz, Poland (© Getty Images)
Three of the four winners at the last IAAF World Cross Country Championships in 2013 will be among the main attractions at the star-studded IAAF Permit/Athletics Kenya National Cross Country Championships at Nairobi’s Uhuru Gardens, where runners from 11 other countries will also battle for the honours on Saturday (14).
The trio of champions from Bydgoszcz two years ago who will lay their reputation on the line at the eighth of the 11 IAAF Cross Country Permit meetings this winter are: Japhet Korir (senior men), two-time World Cross winner Emily Chebet (senior women) and Faith Kipyegon (junior women), the latter having now moved up the ranks.
Athletics Kenya confirmed deep line-ups for the four races, with artificial barriers having been added to the relatively flat Uhuru Gardens course.
“We will try to make the event as tough as possible by placing obstacles on the course since it is very dry. There will also be an extra 100 metres to the finish on the course to make it more challenging,” said Ibrahim Hussein, the former top class runner and meeting technical director.
Athletics Kenya has retained the selection criteria of first four across the line and two wild card entries for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang on 28 March.
Kenya Police have sent a strong team with 2011 world junior cross-country champion and world half-marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor as its figure head in the senior men’s race.
Matthew Kisorio is in the Police squad along with 2013 World Cross junior men’s silver medallist Leonard Barsoton. Philemon Rono, who was 36th in Poland two years ago, and Augustine Choge are also in their armoury.
Kenya Defence Forces, who have minted four world cross country senior men’s champions – John Ngugi, William Sigei, Paul Tergat and Joseph Ebuya – have the evergreen former Kenya team captain Mark Kiptoo, John Chepkwony, Leonard Oloitiptip and Emmanuel Kipsang in their battalion while Kenya Prisons hoping to get a place on the World Cross team through Cornelius Kagongo or Philip Langat.
Last year’s national champion, the Japan-based Bedan Karoki, is in Central colours and hoping to continue his impressive start to the season by competing at his first IAAF World Cross Country Championships.
Last three World Cross women's winners
Emily Chebet, the 2010 and 2013 world cross-country champion, seems to have mastered the art of nailing a place on the Kenyan team; preceding her two triumphs she finished fourth at the trials on both occasions.
She will need all her guile and experience against a field featuring 2011 world cross country champion Vivian Cheruiyot, now back after a maternity break, as well as the junior women’s winners from the past three World Cross Cross Country Championships, two-time champion Faith Kipyegon and her predecessor in 2010, Mercy Cherono.
Gladys Cherono leads the Kenyan Defence Forces women’s team along with two-time World Cross campaigner Doris Changeiywo and top marathon runner Sharon Cherop.
Anne Wanjiru, representing Central, and former junior World Cross medallists Sheila Chepng’etich and Jackline Chepng’eno, both running for South Rift, also have a chance of making the team bound for Guiyang.
In the junior men’s 8km race, all eyes will be on Andrew Lolot, the Nairobi Province runner who has set the local circuit on fire this winter.
Aron Ndiema (North Rift), Daniel Kipkemboi Maemba (Nyanza North) and Alfred Ngeno (South Rift) are other strong contenders in what is often the most open race at the trials.
Rosefline Chepng’etich, Lilian Kasait, Norah Jeruto, are the most prominent names vying to sustain Kenya’s dominance in the junior women’s category in Guiyang.
The Nairobi pair of Eunice Cherono and Mercy Chemutai are other strong contenders in this race.
Among the 26 overseas entries, the Ethiopian duo of Getaneh Molla Tamire and Silenat Yismaw Hugegnaw, who are entered in the senior men’s and women’s races respectively, will be of particular interest owing to Kenya’s long-standing rivalry with their neighbours from the north.
Mutwiri Mutuota (Capital FM) for the IAAF