NAIROBI, Kenya, January 24- Olympics bronze winner, Thomas Longosiwa and Africa Cross Champion, John Mwangangi are the signature attractions when the Kenya Prisons Service top guns line-up for their annual Cross Country Championships on Saturday.
Adding star dust to the line-up is Commonwealth 1500m titleholder, Silas Kiplagat who jailed all comers here in 2011 and Prisons cross champion Timothy Kiptoo, who bagged the series jackpot in the KCB/AK National Cross Country Series last year in the men’s 12km long race.
The corresponding women’s senior 8km event will be headlined by the former Boston Marathon champion, Salina Kosgei and titleholder Jane Mwikali alongside local cross circuit regulars Agnes Katunge, Alice Mogire and former World Junior and Youth medallist, Nelly Chebet.
“Last year we did very well and we had two runners who performed well at the Africa Cross Country. We are looking forward to the same this year and we are confident the team we select after Saturday will compete well at the nationals,” Benjamin Njoga, the Deputy Prisons Commandant and a leading athletics official said on Wednesday.
The event will feature some 120 starters will see the fields tasked with toppling Kiptoo and Mwikali who won the senior races last year at Nairobi’s Uhuru Gardens where the event is scheduled to return.
Kiptoo has a chequered history at the event, coming runner-up in 2008, sixth a year later, seventh in 2011 before destroying the field last year.
But all eyes will be on Longosiwa who forced his way to the podium at last year’s Olympics when a brilliant finish from the final bend landed him the third medal in 13:42.36 over 5000m behind Mo Farah (Britain) and Dejan Gebremeskel (Ethiopia).
Longosiwa who has never won the Prisons cross title was then tasked with leading the Kenyan team to the Chiba Ekiden relay marathon jamboree in Japan where the squad duly delivered the overall title.
Mwangangi, the reigning African titleholder is out to make the step up to the March 24 World Cross and on paper, he remains the outright favourite for the men’s race after a strong domestic season.
The 2009 Prisons champion has underlined his credentials by winning the Kericho leg of the National Cross series on January 13 after finishing fifth in Machakos (November 10) besides topping the Imenti South 10K road race on December 8.
Besides Kosgei and Mwikali, veteran Caroline Kwambai, the fourth placer at the 1990 World Cross in the junior race will also attempt to rewind the clock and show the pretenders the quality that saw her a force in distance running in the 90s and early 2000s where she also finished 12th (2001) at the World Half Championships.
Celestine Mwangangi and Pauline Kaveke who made the podium here last year are also returning to chase the glory.