time World Marathon champion and Kenyan record holder Catherine Ndereba can now rest easy, sit back and watch the fruits of her hard work coming to bear.
The Kenya Prisons officer has been a major force behind the development of athletics at the department, and when Jane Mwikali won the women’s 8km race at the Kenya Prisons National Cross Country Championships at the Prisons Staff Training College in Ruiru on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on Saturday (30), the moment was a huge sense of pride for Ndereba.
In the absence of defending men’s champion and former World marathon champion, Luke Kibet, the men’s 12km title fell to the in-form John Mwangangi who is on course for the KCB Kenya National Cross Country Series jackpot after good runs in the Machakos, Kapsokwony and Eldoret legs of the series.
The top performers in each race of the seven-leg KCB Kenya National Cross Country Series will get a share of the million shilling (10,000 Euros) jackpot at the final meet of the local season, the February 20 National Championships in Nairobi.
Mwikali’s career has steadily been on the rise since she made the final of the 800m at the World Junior Championships in Grosseto, Italy, where she finished seventh. She has since switched to the 1500m and, besides gunning for a ticket to the 38th IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland (28 March), also wants a place in the Kenyan track team for the African Athletics Championships that Nairobi will host in July.
“The course was good and I prepared with team in Kigari. I normally train with Catherine (Ndereba) and now I want to prepare well and work on my speedwork ahead of the national championships (February 20) in Nairobi,” said Mwikali, 23, said after Saturday’s closely fought win.
Only 16 seconds separated the top three - Mwikali (28:59), Carolyne Kwambai (29:00) and Pauline Wangui (29:15).
Ndereba also competed in the race that also saw another former Kenyan marathon great, Margaret Okayo, in action, largely just to spruce up for the new season and to represent her department at these annual championships.
“It was a good race and its good training for me,” said Ndereba. “It is encouraging that we now have many youngsters coming through at Kenya Prisons. I always tell them that hard work and discipline pays off and I’m happy they have taken note and that we have a credible group to hand the baton over to when we retire.”
Ndereba said she’s in good shape and trying to put pen to paper for one spring marathon. “I still don’t know which one but I will definitely run in one.”
A week after the Kenya Police and Armed Forces held their nationals, Kenya Prisons also picked a strong team to take on their rivals at the National Cross Country Championships at the Ngong Racecourse on February 20 where the Kenyan team to Poland will be picked.
“The nationals will be quite tough this year,” Ndereba predicted.
“Kenya Police and the Armed Forces have very strong team and we have great athletes too at the Prisons Service. It will be very challenging and it’s difficult to tell who will make the Kenya team.”
Mwangangi won the Machakos and Eldoret titles finishing third in Kapsokwony after failing to get a podium place in Kisii.
After a battle in the lead pack, that included Silas Kiplagat, Fredrick Musyoki, Bernard Rotich and Thomas Longosiwa, Mwangangi broke away with three laps to go to win the race in 37 minutes and 13 seconds.
“I timed my race well and my body reacted perfectly and that’s when I decided to break away,” said Mwangangi who was on the podium for Kenya in the 5000m at the Africa Junior Athletics Championships in Mauritius last year.
“I will now fight for a place in the Kenya team to the World Cross Country Championships and also make sure I get a share of the jackpot,” he said after the race.
Elias Makori for IAAF
8km – 1. Jane Mwikali 28:59, 2. Carolyne Kwambai 29:00, 3. Pauline Wangui 29:15, 4. Grace Kimanzi 29:21, 5. Alice Mogire 29:24, 6. Celina Koskey 29:39.
2km – 1. John Mwangangi 37:13, 2. Silas Kiplagat 37:30, 3. Fredrick Musyoki 37:51, 4. Bernard Rotich 37:58, 5. Wachira Maina 38:05, 6. Thomas Longosiwa 38:06.