NAIROBI, January 14- Reigning IAAF World Cross Country senior men 12km titleholder, Japheth Korir, bucked the trend of Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) being the only institution in the nation to mint a winner of the Holy Grail of cross country running in Bydgoszcz, Poland two years ago.
Five-time winners John Ngugi (86 to 89, 92) and Tergat (95 to 99) as well as double champion William Sigei (93 and 94) preceded Turkana-born Joseph Ebuya (2010) as individual men 12km gold medallists from KDF.
On Friday, the KDF/ Athletics Kenya Cross Country Championships will be held in the relatively flat and windy Kahawa Barracks course in the outskirts of Nairobi with the Guiyang IAAF World Cross in China adding the extra motivation for the deep fields assembled for the men senior 12km and women senior 8km contests.
Ebuya, the shock 2010 winner who has since failed to hit the heights after his memorable triumph also in Bydgoszcz, will miss the Kahawa Barracks party but KDF have paraded all their potent artillery as they gun to assemble a strong squad for next month’s Athletics Kenya National Cross Country Championships where the Kenyan team to China will be selected.
“We want to have as many athletes as possible in the national team for China and most of our top runners have been training vigorously for this Friday and we are ready to witness intense competition. Ebuya is not there,” cross legend and KDF Athletics official, Major Paul Koech outlined.
Ageless Kiptoo leads men 12km charge
Having captained the national team to the 2009 Amman World Cross in Jordan, ever green Mark Kiptoo continues to defy the odds and much younger legs to continue his string of success well into his 38th year.
Kiptoo proved his credential last fall with his resounding 2:06:49 victory at the BMW Frankfurt Marathon and has had no competitive run out yet in the nascent season meaning his is fresh for an assault on returning to the World Cross since Jordan and reclaiming the Forces crown he last wore in 2013.
“I don’t know the kind of shape I’m in at the moment and my aim is at first, to go out there and help my Laikipia Airbase team win the title. The competition is stiff, especially from younger runners so it is not easy to say I can make the Forces team outright.
“If I make the team, I will be so delighted and will train to make the Kenya squad for China since Cross Country is good build up for marathon running. If I don’t make it, I will focus on upcoming road races but will give my best,” Kiptoo said Wednesday.
He’s up against defending champion, Laikipia Airbase Corporal Leonard Oloitiptip who finally caught the bouquet after successive fourth finishes in the last two years as well as Peter Matelong and former World Cross junior silver medallist, Vincent Kiprop.
Other studs in the field include former champion and World Junior silver medallistm John Chepkwony, Olympics steeplechase bronze medallist, Abel Mutai, veteran Josphat Kiprono Menjo and fast rising Kiplimo Kimutai.
Who will stop Cherono?
Defending champion and KDF leading distance female runner, Gladys Cherono, is the titan to beat in the corresponding women’s 8km showdown at Kahawa.
The World Half Marathon and 2012 double African distance champion has familiar competition to contend with including the explosive African 1500m titleholder, Hellen Obiri and Beijing Olympics 1500m champion, Nancy Jebet Langat who’s still trying to find her feet after debilitating knee injury.
Seasoned road racer and former champion, Lineth Chepkirui, rising Perine Nengkampi, Sally Jepleting and Agnes Jesang add star dust to the line-up.
Former World Cross junior silver medallist, Veronica Nyaruai and steeplechase star and the returning Mercy Njoroge will be seeking to reclaim former glory.
-Athletics Kenya Communications