NAIROBI, Kenya, November 17- All Africa Games metric mile champion, Caleb Mwangangi who also holds World Junior 1500m crown in addition will be the man to beat in the senior 12km long race at Saturday’s third NBK/AK National Cross Country series in Embu.
The 2010 World Cross junior champion who was relegated to fourth at the opening meeting in Tala a fortnight ago is seeking a maiden senior victory as he fronts a strong entry list from Southern AK branch that is seeking to sweep the boards in the Eastern branch organised event.
Reigning Africa Cross senior titleholder and namesake John Mwangangi who was forced down to sixth in Tala is out to reclaim his mantle in Embu with his bridesmaid in Cape Town, Patrick Muaka also in the frame in the show stopping 12km race.
The women’s senior run will witness Daegu 1500m finalist, Hellen Obiri who returned fourth in the second meet in Chepkoilel has been installed as the headline act in the 8km event.
Obiri, the national women 1500m titleholder will however, not have it her own way with Africa Cross bronze medallist, Zipporah Wanjiru, 2008 junior steeple gold winner, Christine Kambua, former Nyeri Half Marathon titleholder, Magdaline Syombua, Prisons Service 10,000m winner, Pauline Wangui and Fridah Kaimuri also in the deep field.
Another potential minefield is the women 6km junior race where Africa Cross silver winner, Mary Munanu facing intense competition to fulfil her favourite role with a smattering of unheralded entries seeking to claim her scalp.
Joseph Kinyua, the AK Eastern Branch chairman, said over 600 athletes are expected to take part in the meeting, the third in the seven leg circuit that will be staged at the Kangaru Girls High school ground.
“We are going back to the same course we competed on last year. Many of the athletes who ran last year gave it thumbs up and we have no reason to change it,” said Kinyua.
The battle for the Sh1.2 million series jackpot picks up momentum with other runners seeking to join the inform Africa Cross men junior bronze medallist Nicholas Togom who has won both 12km senior races in Tala and Chepkoilel.
“An athlete needs to compete in two of the seven meetings and finish in the top seven positions for him to qualify. Moreover, they must compete at the final cross country meeting in Kisii in February,” added Kinyua.
This means that with majority of the elite athletes yet to launch their season, the highlands of Embu and the flat course of Kangaru will be ideal for many to start their quest to sustain enough endurance for the season.