Defending champions Augustine Choge and Caroline Chepkoech will be out to retain their titles when the Kenya Police Cross Country championships go down tomorrow at Ngong racecourse.
Choge faces a litmus test in former Police champion and two-time world cross country champion Geoffrey Kamworor as well as Emmanuel Bett, who finished third last year, James Kitum and Bethwell Birgen.
Bett has been in fine form in the Athletics Kenya cross country circuit winning the Olkalou, Sotik and Tuskys Wareng in Eldoret.
The mixed relays will see reigning world 1500m champion Elijah Manangoi go head to head with former world and Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop.
Chepkoech will be back to defend the senior women’s 10km race but should not expect an easy ride with former wold 800m champion Eunice Sum, former world 3000m steeplechase champion Hyving Kiyeng, former Commonwealth Youth Games 1500m champion Stacey Ndiwa, Beatrice Chepkoech and Janet Kisa also also interested in the title.
National Police Service coach Isaac Kirwa said he expects the law enforcers to form the bulk Team Kenya to the Africa Cross Country Championships in Algeria in March.
“We have a good crop of athletes in our team. Last year, we had the majority of athletes in the team to the World Cross Country Championships in Uganda and we hope it will be the same this year,” said Kirwa.
He said the course will be tough and challenging to the participants as they have made alterations to the route that was used last year.
“The conditions are expected to be hot and we have made some minor changes to the course to make it tough for the competitors in all the categories,” added Kirwa.
He added that the athletes will be using the championships as part of their preparations for the Commonwealth Games trials next months. Kirwa revealed that preparations for the event are almost complete and he expects a big turnout
“We expect a huge turnout from the various units and maybe we will have surprise winners on Saturday,” he observed.
Meanwhile, world 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri will be seeking to defend her Kenya Defence Forces Cross Country title at the Moi Air Base, Nairobi today.
The KDF Corporal won last year’s 36th edition of the event having timed 32 minutes and 49.08 seconds holding off Jemima Sumgong to the silver position in a time of 33:16.9.
But in the absence of Sumgong (who is serving a four-year ban), Obiri, the 2017 female Athlete of the Year who has also been nominated for the SOYA Award will face competition from Senior Private Joyciline Jepkosgei, who finished third (33:29.08) at the Thika Garrison last year.
This will be Obiri’s second race within one week, having clocked 19:28.00 to finish fourth at the 61st edition of Campaccio race in SAN Giorgio Su Legnano, Italy on January 6.
With the men’s defending champion Emmanuel Kipsang from Mtongwe yet to confirm his participation, World Marathon champion Geoffrey Kirui will lead the men’s title contest.
Corporal Steven Arita of Nairobi is the other notable cross country regular who is expected to spice up the title contest as runners seek slots in the Defence Forces team to the national cross country championships and eventually a chance to represent the country in Algeria.