The field in the women's 8km race at the Kenya Police National Cross Country Championships at the Ngong Racecourse in Nairobi on Saturday. Vivian Cheruiyot (0683) won the race with Linet Masai (right) second and Grace Momanyi (third from left) third. (MOHAMMED AMIN/ Daily Nation) © Copyright
General News 19 February 2010 – Nairobi, Kenya

Kenyan World XC team spots up for grabs in Nairobi on Saturday

Nairobi, KenyaKenya will pick its best for the 39th IAAF World Cross Country Championships on Saturday with lots of surprises expected at the national trials that are also an IAAF Cross Country Permit Meeting.

Lelei mourned

The Kenya Commercial Bank-sponsored meeting will, however, be run against the backdrop of mourning in Kenyan athletics circles following the death of middle distance runner David Lelei, killed in a car crash about 200 kilometres west of the capital Nairobi.

Lelei died on impact while his passenger, former World 10,000m champion and double Boston Marathon winner, Moses Tanui, escaped with minor injuries and was discharged from the Nairobi Hospital Friday (19) in good condition.

The 39-year-old Lelei won a 1500m silver medal at the 1999 All African Games in Johannesburg, the same year he finished seventh over the same distance at the World championships in Seville. He was fourth in the 800m at the 2001 World Indoor Championships in Lisbon.

While hosting a small group of guests...

Saturday’s KCB/Athletics Kenya National Cross Country Championships will be held at the Uhuru Gardens, shifted from the traditional venue at the Ngong Racecourse in a move that should draw a bigger crowd given the new venue’s proximity to Nairobi’s city centre.

Athletics Kenya released the start list late today (Friday 19th) with about 500 athletes lined up for the action in the junior and senior races at the meet dubbed the “Mini World Championships.”

The foreign entries are not too many with Georgia’s Merab Kinidze and Botswana’s Rapula Diphoko entered in the senior men’s 12km race and Mary Xwaymay of Tanzania running in the junior women’s 6km race.

However, the biggest challenge from outside the Kenyan borders will be the Ugandan experienced pair of Benjamin Kiplagat and Boniface Kiprop in the 12km race. The Ugandans have also entered Adero Nyakisi and Janet Achola in the senior women’s 8km race that also has Rwanda’s Angelique Nyirabimana and Fils Sikubwabo.

... the spotlight on Kenyan team berths

The first four across the line in each of the four races get automatic places in Kenya’s team to the World Cross Country Championships with the extra two in each race being picked by the national coaches’ wild card system.

Saturday’s races will also reward the most consistent runners in the series with a share of one million shillings (10,000 Euros) jackpot for the athletes with the best overall results in the series that started last November.

Senior women’s 8km -

World 10,000m champion Linet Masai is red hot favourite to take the national title after being beaten to the top position at the Kenya Police national championships by Vivian Cheruiyot, the World 5000m gold medallist in Berlin.

The Kenya Police force should produce the bulk of the squad with former national champion Grace Momanyi, Margaret Wangare and Pamela Lisoreng also in the strong Police squad.

There will be extra motivation to perform given the fact that defending World champion, Florence Kiplagat, also of the Kenya Police, will not defend her title, due to injury, in Poland.

Opposition to Masai – silver medalist in Amman last year – and the Police ladies will also come from former junior World champion Pauline Korikwiang, Veronica Nyaruai and Gladys Kemboi.

Gladys Chemweno will be chasing her share of the jackpot on offer and this should motivate her well enough.

Senior men’s 12km -

Leonard Komon has been the nearly-man on several occasions and should provide an interesting duel with the fast-rising and confident Mathew Kisorio although Armed Forces champion and Kenya’s team captain in Amman, Mark Kiptoo, has other ideas.

Komon won silver in 2008 behind the indefatigable Ethiopian multiple champion Kenenisa Bekele in Edinburgh and was fourth in Amman last year.

World Junior 5000m silver medallist Kisorio has had a brilliant season building up to the nationals where he will seek to continue in the footsteps of his late father, Some Muge, Kenya’s first medallist in cross country running.

It will be a story of fresh graduates from the junior ranks coming through, including  World Junior 8km silver medallist, Titus Mbishei, Joseph Ebuya, Charles Bett Chepkurui, the World Junior 10,000m champion.

Regular campaigners, including Eliud Kipchoge, Edwin Soi and Vincent Kiprop Chepkok, will be out to show the juniors that they are not over the hill yet.

Kenya Prisons’ John Mwangangi finished third in the Eldoret leg of the national series after two wins in Machakos and Kapsokwony and is in contention for the jackpot on offer along with Shadrack Kosgei and Bernard Koech.

Junior women’s 6km -

The silver medallist from Amman, Mercy Cherono, is making her final appearance as a junior and after running Ethiopia’s Genzabe Dibaba close in Amman, she will be justified to feel that this is her year.

Others to look out for are Esther Chemutai, Nelly Chebet, Elizabeth Mueni, Purity Cheriotich and Alice Aprot.

Chemutai, 14, will be seeking to keep the family tradition going. She is the grand-daughter of the legendary Ben Jipcho,  a 1972 Olympic 3000m steeplechase silver medallist.

Chemutai made Kenya’s team to last year’s Africa Junior Athletics Championship in Mauritius but was dropped and replaced by Cherono “who was much stronger and more capable of taking on the Ethiopians.”

Aprot was the surprise winner in the Kisii leg of the national cross country series last December.

Junior men’s 8km -

Japheth Korir, fourth in Amman last year is the hot favourite here. He has been dominant on the national cross country circuit on which Isaiah Kiplangat, the World Youth 3000m champion and David Bett have provided worthy company.

Korir, a Form Four student at Kiptere Secondary School in the Kenyan South Rift town of Kericho, will be up against Simon Cheprot of Mount Elgon who, like Korir, has two wins to his credit on the national circuit.

Jonathan Muia Ndiku, the World Junior 3,000m steeplechase champion is also in the reckoning.

The Kenyan team picked Saturday will proceed to a residential training camp next week on the slopes of Mt Kenya to prepare for the Worlds in Bydgoszcz.

Elias Makori for the IAAF