World cross country trials teeming with stars

Geoffrey Kamworor wins Kenya Police Cross Country title

Geoffrey Kamworor cuts the tape to win the senior men's race at the Kenya Police Cross Country Championships at Ngong Racecourse, Nairobi on January 29, 2021. 

Photo credit: File | Ayumba Ayodi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The World Cross Country Championships is due for February 18 at Mount Panorama Circuit in Bathurst, Australia
  • The focus will be on the senior women men’s 10 kilometre races that will go down at 11.30am and 12.15pm respectively
  • World 5,000m silver medallist Beatrice Chebet, who is also the Commonwealth Games 5,000m champion, is out to stop the 2017 World Cross Country champion Irene Cheptai in the women’s race

About 350 athletes will battle out in six categories during the national trials for the World Cross Country Championships Friday morning at Kenya Prison Staff Training College, Ruiru.

The World Cross Country Championships is due for February 18 at Mount Panorama Circuit in Bathurst, Australia.

The event was postponed from 2021 to 2022 and then to 2023 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and Australian travel restrictions.

The focus will be on the senior women men’s 10 kilometre races that will go down at 11.30am and 12.15pm respectively even though the newly introduced senior women and men’s 2km races at 10am and 10.15am respectively will open the busy day.

The 2km races will be followed by the women’s under-20 6km and men’s under-20 8km races at 10.30am and 10.55am in that order.

But just who will stop the 'King of all surfaces' in potentially explosive men’s 10km?

Does the 30-year-old, Geoffrey Kamworor, who is angling himself for a hat-trick of victories in Bathurst after his exploits in 2015 and 2017, still has what it takes to reign supreme?

Those are the questions as the three-time World Half Marathon champion faces nerve-racking moments from young blood led by the steady-rising World 10,000m silver medallist Stanley Waithaka, 22.

Besides Waithaka, who is eyeing his maiden appearance at the World Cross Country Championships, there is Commonwealth Games 10,000m silver medallist Daniel Simiu, who won the Ol Kalou leg of the AK Series after finishing second in Sotik.

Others are Edward Zakayo, 21, who is fresh from winning Cardiff Cross Country Challenge, Edwin Bett, who won the Machakos and Sotik legs of AK Series and Kenya Prisons champion Charles Mneria. 

Also in action will be Commonwealth Games 3,000m steeplechase bronze medallist Amos Serem, 20. Serem is also the 2021 World Under-20 Championships 3,000m steeplechase champion.

“I want to recapture my world cross title and see if I will get another shot in the  marathon team for the World Championships,'' said Kamworor adding that the changes in the cross country calendar got them off guard.

"But I shall give it my best shot,” said Kamworor, who will be competing for the first time since finishing fifth at the World Athletics Championships marathon in Oregon, United States on July 17 this year.

The World Athletics Championships are from August 19 to 27 in Budapest, Hungary next year.

"The changes came suddenly for many but I just want to make the team for the world event," said Zakayo, the 2018 World Under-20 5,000m champion.

Athletics Kenya was forced to make changes to the cross country program following stringent visa application timelines set ahead of the world event.

The national trials that were due for January 21 during the National Cross Country Championships were changed to this Saturday. 

World 5,000m silver medallist Beatrice Chebet, who is also the Commonwealth Games 5,000m champion, is out to stop the 2017 World Cross Country champion Irene Cheptai in the women’s race.

Also in contention are Cynthia Chepng'eno, the winner in Machakos, world 3,000m steeplechase record holder Beatrice Chepkoech, Commonwealth 3,000m steeplechase champion Jackline Chepkoech and Africa 10,000m champion Caroline Nyaga.

“I want to complete a double just like Obiri in 2019 by winning the world cross and world championships 5,000m titles,” said Chebet. Obiri, the world 10,000m silver medallist, will not be defending the title she won in Denmark. 

"I will be happy to represent Kenya for the second time after the Africa event in June," said Nyaga.

The course that has been prepared by head coach Julius Kirwa alongside fellow tactician David Letting, James Masese and Gideon Chirchir looks exciting with several challenges that included three hills, hay and water.

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