NAIROBI, Kenya, February 6- In following recent tradition, Kenya Police Service has once again rolled out their big guns in an attempt to arrest the competition at the 19th IAAF/AK Permit National Cross Country Championships at Nairobi’s Uhuru Gardens on February 15.
While the depth of their 12 runners on show is in no doubt, all eyes will be on their poster girls, World Cross title holder, Emily Chebet (Administration Police) and Mercy Cherono, who is on a personal mission to hunt for her second senior women Africa Cross Country Crown when the event makes a stop in Kampala, Uganda in March.
Having missed the Punta Umbria World Cross in Spain following a debilitating knee injury, Chebet bounced back to the top of the planet when she mugged Ethiopia’s Hiwot Ayalew over the last 50m to reclaim the title she won in Poland in 2010.
With regular and administration units merging under Kenya Police service, Chebet is the headline act in the women’s senior 8km event at the Nationals.
Even though she is yet to compete on the cross circuit this season, her pedigree on the local front speaks for itself having won the KCB/AK National Cross Country Series jackpot last year en-route to her second World Cross success in Bydgoscz.
Chebet was fourth at the World Championships in Moscow over 10,000m, missing out on the medals by a fraction of a second besides clocking a career best of 68:20 in the half marathon in Valencia in October to further underline her credentials.
1n 2011, Cherono, a decorated junior athlete who won the 3000m gold medal twice as well as the junior World Cross title in Bydgoscz, Poland in 2010, made the seamless transition to the senior ranks when she scooped the senior women African cross gold in South Africa.
Despite not featuring on the local cross circuit this season, Cherono was a shoe-in for the Police squad after impressing at the IAAF Permit meets of Sevilla (third/ January 19) and Elgoibar (fourth/January 12) where she mixed it with the best including World Cross silver winner, Hiwot who won both events.
Former junior national champion, Janet Kisa, former World junior champion, the resurgent Irene Jelagat, Edith Chelimo and Mary Wacera complete the women senior Police corps.
Their corresponding men 12km field is intimidating as well, featuring front running experts and namesakes, 2011 World Cross junior champion, Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor and twice New York marathon winner, Geoffrey Mutai, as the spearheads.
The pair has chased each other to the finishing line in that order at the Kenya Police Cross Country Championships for two years in a row in another spice to the internal rivalry that could spill over to the National showpiece.
At the 2011 World Cross in Spain where Kipsang unravelled a stunning gun to tape performance to sweep to the gold having arrived only hours to his race, Mutai was part of the Kenyan senior squad that won team gold after he finished fifth, having gone to Punta Umbria as the national champion.
While the marathon ace is part of the loaded April 13 London Marathon field, Mutai expressed interest in doing duty for his country in Kampala should he make the team.
“It will be a good build up for London where I’m hoping to do well having missed it last year with injury,” he added after coming second to Kipsang during the Police meet in January.
Last year’s surprise national champion, Philemon Rono, is now part of the Police line-up alongside former World junior champion, Josphat Bett, Barnabas Sigei and Joseph Kitur.
POLICE SENIOR TEAM
Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor