The stage is set for some exciting competition as the best of Kenya’s long distance running talent converge on Nairobi this Saturday (12 Feb) for the National Cross Country Championships.
The meeting which will be staged at the traditional Ngong Racecourse venue, is Kenya’s annual IAAF cross country permit meeting and represent the team trails for the 33rd IAAF World Cross Country Championships which are to be held in St-Etienne/St-Galmier, France from 19 to 20 March 2005.
Also at stake on Saturday will be a share of the Sh1million (US$12,500) Jackpot which is on offer for the winner’s of the Athletics Kenya 2004/2005 cross country series. Six athletes who have dominated the season which started on 6 November 2004 in Nairobi and which has since had stops in the Kenyan countryside at Machakos, Nyahururu, Kisii, Kericho and Eldoret. Any athlete who won an event three times in the circuit and then wins a fourth time at Saturday’s trials will qualify for a share of the Jackpot.
Johnson Muiruri has the remotest chance of claiming a share of the Jackpot as he runs in the most competitive race – the 12km senior men’s race which is likely to draw some of the world’s best athletes. So even though he dominated the local circuit, winning outright in Machakos and was first Kenyan home in Nairobi and Nyahururu, he will be very lucky to survive Saturday’s race as the victor again.
Other candidates for a share of the Jackpot are Hosea Macharnyang, who won the 8km junior men’s race in Kisii, Kericho, and Eldoret, and Eunice Jepkorir, the winner of senior women’s 8km race in Nyahururu, Kericho, and Eldoret.
Then there is the young and talented Veronica Nyarwai, who won the junior women’s 6km race in Nairobi, Machakos, Nyahururu and Eldoret. Also in the hunt will be Prisca Jepleting who won the senior women’s short race in Kisii, Kericho and Eldoret, and Nancy Wambui who was the short race winner in Nairobi, Machakos, and Nyahururu.
Men’s long and short races
Returning to the men’s long race, Muiruri will take on a strong Armed Forces challenge with 34-year-old Paul Koech and John Cheruiyot Korir among the day’s favourites.
Former double World short race champion John Kibowen, who won the 12km during this year’s Armed Forces championships, will revert to his specialty, the 4km, where Rift Valley’s Abraham Chebii, Armed Forces’ Sammy Kipketer and former World Youth 1500m champion Isaac Songok are likely to cause him considerable problems.
Women’s long and short races
Kenya Prisons ‘Golden Girls’ should dominate the women’s senior 8km race with Catherine Kirui leading a star-studded field of marathon runners including World Marathon champion and Olympic silver medallist Catherine Ndereba, New York City marathon silver medallist Susan Chepkemei, and London Marathon champion Margaret Okayo.
Former World 10,000m champion Sally Barsosio and a former African 10,000m champion Leah Malot could also provide formidable competition in the long race.
Three-time World short race champion Edith Masai and Paris Marathon champion Selina Kosgei will lead the Prison Services team charge in the short race with a strong challenge likely to emerge from Central Province’s Jane Gakunyi, who was 2003 World bronze medallist, and the Armed Forces’ pair of Irene Lemika and Iness Chenonge and Jackpot candidate Nancy Wambui and her Central province team mates Margaret Wangare and Mary Wangare.
Current World Junior champion Augustine Choge should dominate the men’s 8km junior race.
Omulo Okoth (The Standard) for IAAF