LISBON, November 13 – Kenyans will lead the charge in the opening 2008/09 IAAF Cross Country Permit Series meet in Portugal on Saturday.
David Kilel will be the top name in the men’s race. Kilel was second in the 2001 World Youth Championships at 3000m (7:56.95), and now with personal bests of 7:42.49 (3000m; 2002) and 13:11.83 (5000m; 2004), was eighth in the senior short course race at the World Cross Country Championships in 2003, when still a junior.
Kilel will be joined by Titus Masai, winner of 10,000m of the 2007 Provincial championships in KenyaPortugal. (29:08.8), Philmon Kemei, Edwin Kibet, and David Langat. All of them are very experienced and regular competitors in cross country meetings and road races in
From Portugal, trying to find a place on the national team are Ricardo Ribas, European Cup First League Group B 2005 winner at 5000m and a former national short course xc champion, and Hermano Ferreira, who just two weeks ago was second in the European Champion Clubs Road Race Cup (20km). Other names in the mix could be Luís Feiteira, José Ramos, José Rocha, Nuno Costa and Pedro Ribeiro.
In the women’s race, Kenyans will again make up the main international opposition led by Rahab Ndungu, who has a 15:34.03 personal best at 5000m and Jackline Chemuok, who has a personal best of 9:45.7 for the 3000m Steeplechase should be the principal overseas contenders for the victory. Chemuok was 11th in the junior race at the 1999 World Cross Country Championships.
But offering an equally stiff if not firmer challenge for victory should be the Portuguese themselves who have high team hopes for the European XC in December.
Jessica Augusto, three times national cross country champion (in the last three years) who second placed last month in the Great South Run, behind Paula Radcliffe, is very much the favoured athlete.
Augusto, a former European Junior XC champion, turned 27-years-old on 8 November. This year she has set a national Steeplechase record (9:22.50) and with a PB clocking at the half marathon of 71:38 when finishing eighth in the Great North Run, is very much a realistic home favourite for victory.
Trying also to achieve a place in the national team are other top Portuguese runners, such as Mónica Rosa, last year’s winner in Oeiras but whose year has been ruined by injury. This Saturday’s race marks her return to competition after a recovery period of several months.
Anália Rosa, a former twice national long course and six times national short course cross country champion, Leonor Carneiro, and Ana Dias are also strong domestic runners. The home strength is such that Inês Monteiro the 1999 European junior cross country champion, Sara Moreira, the 2007 European U23 3000m Steeplechase bronze medallist, and Dulce Felix, winner of the European Champion Clubs Road Race Cup, a few weeks ago in Italy, are others who are set to figure in the battle for honours.
Tennis superstar Serena Williams arrived in the country on Thursday evening for a charity mission under the auspices of Build African Schools Initiative and technology firm Hewlett Packard (HP) for whom she is the Global Ambassador.