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Foreigners to spice up National Cross

EMILY-CHEBETNAIROBI, Kenya, February 14- Twelve foreign runners are listed in the field for Saturday’s IAAF Permit Kenya Cross Country Championships in Nairobi.

The competition at Uhuru Gardens will be used to select the Kenyan team for the March 24 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Bydgosczcz, Poland with further foreign entries from Germany expected to be confirmed.

Vianney Ndiho (senior men) and Yvette Hatungimana (senior women) from Burundi, Nthomphe Godiraone (senior men) from Botswana, Pfeil Valentin and Christian Steinhammer (both of Austria), Lee McCarron and Daniel McNeil from Canada are some of the foreign runners on the start list.

Tanzanian pair of Agostino Sulle (senior men) and Angelina Tsere (senior women) as well as Ugandans Soyekwo Kibet (senior men) and Adero Nyakisi (senior women) complete the line-up of those who had been confirmed by Wednesday morning.

Ugandan Kibet stunned Kenyans during the KCB/AK National Cross Country Series meeting in Eldoret on January 6, beating among others former world 10K record holder, Micah Kogo and the 2010 World Cross champion, Joseph Ebuya to underline his credentials as his country’s main hope in Poland.

“The entry of this athletes meets the criteria of the event to be recognised as an IAAF Permit race,” Athletics Kenya (AK) general secretary, David Okeyo, said.

He confirmed the selection criteria will not change with the first four Kenyan athletes across the line in the four races on the cards getting automatic places in the team.

A panel of selectors will decide the remaining two slots to bring the squad to 24.

Of primary concern to the federation is picking a team that will reclaim the men 12km senior title that was lost to Ethiopia’s Imane Merga at the last World Cross edition of 2011 in Punta Umbria, Spain.

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“This is one title that keeps slipping away from us and we have asked our selectors to pick a team that will bring it back since it is the biggest at the World Cross,” Okeyo who is also the president of the Cross Country Commission at world body IAAF declared.

Vivian Cheruiyot and Geoffrey Kipsang who won the senior women and junior men World Cross titles in Spain will not defend their titles after pulling out of the selection event.

Linet Masai, the senior women silver medallist at the last three World Cross editions and World Marathon Majors winner, Geoffrey Mutai are among other elite runners who will be missing in action on Saturday.

“We respect Vivian’s wish to prepare for the World Championships in Moscow and wish Linet quick recovery from injury but we are still confident that we shall select a strong team that will repeat what we did in Poland three years ago,” the secretary noted.

Kenya won an unprecedented eight out of eight individual and team titles at the 2010 edition and among those eyeing a return there include Ebuya and fellow World Cross champion, Emily Chebet who bagged the senior women crown.

Both are among the 396 athletes on the starting list in a competition dubbed tougher than the World Cross itself.

The selected team will enter residential training at their tradition Kigari Teacher Training College base in Embu (200km from Nairobi) on February 20 before departing for Poland exactly a month later.

“We will give the selected athletes only three days before reporting to camp because we want to be fully ready. The competition from Ethiopia, Morocco and now Uganda is very tough,” Okeyo charged.

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