NAIROBI, Kenya, February 11- Defending men and women champions, Japheth Korir and two-time winner Emily Chebet, will face killer fields for another shot at World Cross glory during the IAAF Permit/Athletics Kenya National Cross Country Championships on Saturday at Nairobi’s Uhuru Gardens.
Twice women junior titleholder, Faith Chepng’etich Kipyegon who soared to back-to-back 6km women’s gold medals at Punta Umbria 2011 and Bydgoszcz 2013 editions will vie for a place in the 8km long race having crowned her graduation to a senior with the continental title last year in Kampala, Uganda.
“We will try to make the event as tough as possible by placing obstacles on the course since it is very dry. There will be an extra 100m to the finish on the course that remains the same to make it more challenging,” Ibrahim Hussein, the race technical director announced on Wednesday.
Athletics Kenya (AK) confirmed Wednesday deep line-ups for the four races with over 390 starters including 26 foreign entries drawn up for the selection event for the March 28 IAAF World Cross in Guiyang, China.
The federation stuck to the first four across the line and two wildcard entries as the criteria to be used to select the six runners in each of the junior men, junior women, senior women and senior men categories who will bid to extend their dominance at the biennial global showpiece in China.
Senior men 12km
Five-time winner, Paul Tergat (1999) is the last Kenyan repeat winner of the Holy Grail of World Cross running with Japheth Korir, who became the youngest to bag the coveted title at 19 in Poland seeking to avoid being the biggest casualty at the Trials that are notorious for being a graveyard of stellar names.
Running in South Rift colours, the surprise champion has had an indifferent winter and comes from running 2:19:46 for fourth on his full marathon debut in Taipei last weekend casting doubt over his ability to overcome a super-charged line-up.
Once again, the star-studded Kenya Police team lead the way with 2011 World Cross junior winner, Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor, the figure head with the returning convicted drug cheat and former captain, Matthew Kisorio, circuit veteran Augustine Choge and former decorated juniors, Leonard Barsoton and Philemon Rono among those in their heavy ammunition.
Kenya Defence Forces who have minted four of five 12km senior champions, John Ngugi, William Sigei, Tergat and lately, Joseph Ebuya (2010) have evergreen former Kenya skipper, Mark Kiptoo, 38, John Chepkwony, Leonard Oloitiptip and Emmanuel Kipsang among their troops with Kenya Prisons hoping to jail a place through the fast rising Cornelius Kagongo or Philip Lagat.
Last year’s national champion, Bedan Karoki, returns in Central colours hoping to continue his impressive start to the season by competing at his first World Cross after forfeiting the chance to run at the African showdown last year.
Senior women 8km
Emily Chebet has twice mugged victories at the World Cross but needs to be at her best to pick-pocket a place at Uhuru Gardens where she will line-up against established stars and hungry graduating juniors led by Faith Chepng’etich, the junior titleholder who showed her a clean pair of heels last year at the same venue.
The wily Chebet knows how to hold down a place in the national side having finished fourth in Nairobi on both occasions she brought the crown home in 2010 and 13 as Poland hosted both events.
Besides Chepng’etich, 2011 double world champion, Vivian Cheruiyot and Commonwealth champion, Mercy Cherono, who have also tasted World Cross victories as seniors and juniors front the imposing Kenya Police charge although the former was reported to have stated her intention to skip the World Cross for a tilt at summer’s World Championships in Beijing.
Commonwealth and African distance champion, Gladys Cherono, leads the KDF entries to the potent fray alongside two-time World Cross campaigner, Doris Changeiywo whilst Anne Wanjiru (Central), who featured at the Bydgoszcz 2010 edition, former junior medallist, Sheila Chepng’etich and Jackline Chepng’eno (both South Rift) also in the contest.
Junior men 8km
The men’s 8km title was the only one that eluded Kenya’s grasp in Poland when Ethiopia’s Hagos Gebrhiwet beat Barsoton to the top medal and all eyes will be on Andrew Lolot, the Nairobi Province runner who has illuminated the local circuit this season.
North Rift’s Aron Ndiema and Daniel Kipkemboi Maemba (Nyanza North) and Alfred Ngeno (South Rift) are other strong contenders in the most open category and traditionally the most difficult race at the Trials.
Junior women 6km
World Youth champions, Rosefline Chepng’etich, Lilian Kasait, Norah Jeruto will be the stellar names in the race where Kenya seeks a successor to Chepng’etich who has since made an auspicious entry to the senior ranks.
Nairobi pair of Eunice Cherono and Mercy Chemutai are other strong contenders in the event that will kick-off proceedings at 0800 (+3GMT).
To qualify as an IAAF Permit meet organisers confirmed entries from across the borders five Tanzanians, four Sudanese, three Ugandans and two entries from Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Swaziland and Sierra Leone.
All eyes will be on archrivals Ethiopian pair of Getaneh Molla Tamire (12km men) and Silenat Yismaw Hugegnaw (8km women) should they line-up at the start.
An anti-doping seminar will be conducted Friday with athletes and guests expected to check in the day before.