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IAAF Cross Challenge heats up in Nairobi

26 February 1999 Monaco - Monte-Carlo – From Chiba to Nairobi: the IAAF Cross Challenge continues on a new continent tomorrow for the last event before the World Cross Country Championships in Belfast next month. The 1999 Nairobi International event meets the Challenge criteria with 10 nationalities (not including the home nation) represented in the women’s race and 8 in the men, but also doubles as the Kenyan National Championships and official Trial for Belfast.

To say that Saturday’s races will be an exhibition of world class running would be an understatement. As results from previous World Championships demonstrate – Kenya are simply the best: they have won every men’s team title since 1986 and six of the last eight women’s team titles. Among the fascinating aspects of tomorrow’s races (mirroring the Belfast programme, there will be long and short course races and two junior events) will be to see which of Kenya’s outstanding runners will make the team… and who will be left out.

Paul Tergat, who aims to win an historic fifth consecutive long course title in Belfast, has to overcome the challenge of his countrymen first. These include Paul Koech, Tom Nyariki, Moses Tanui, Julius Chelule, Josephat Machuka and Laban Chege. Yet there are also 65 other Kenyans - drawn from teams like the Armed Forces, Prison Services, Kenyan Police, Kenyan University and Regions – who are dreaming, and may be capable, of providing a major upset. Ethiopia’s Haylu Mekonen, currently fifth in the Cross Challenge standings, is likely to finish as "fastest foreigner".

As for the women, Kenya’s in-form specialists will also be evident, led by Jackline Maranga, Leah Malot and Susan Chepkemei in the long race. Among the international entrants, the strongest on paper will be Ethiopia’s Adere Berhane, who is currently 16th in the Cross Challenge Standings.

Full results will be posted on the IAAF’s Internet Web Site