•Apart from the senior categories, other races to be contested include the under 20 and under 18 for boys and girls as well as the mixed relay
•Athletics Kenya's director of youth development Barnaba Korir said they are eagerly awaiting the competition
•The event will be a dry run for the Agnes Tirop World Cross Country Tour at the same venue on February 12
A plateful of entertainment awaits cross country enthusiasts in Eldoret this weekend after the start list for the national cross country championship was released on Tuesday.
It will be a bruising battle in the men's 10km senior race where several big names will be angling for the national title as upstarts try to cause an upset.
The 2016 Africa Cross Country Championship bronze medalist Charles Muneria will renew his rivalry with workmate, the 2016 Africa Championship 10,000m silver medalist, Wilfred Kimitei after competing against each other during the Kenya Prisons Service trials.
Muneria timed 30:06.5 to clinch his fourth KPS cross country title, ahead of Boaz Kiprugut (30:08.5) and Kimitei (30:17.7) in second and third respectively.
However, it will not be a Prisons' affair as other regions and affiliates boast stellar names capable of running away with the national title.
World 10km record holder Rhonex Kipruto will be leading the National Police Service contingent in the absence of former world half marathon record holder Geoffrey Kamworor.
After he clinched the Police title at the Ngong Race Course a week ago, Rhonex was clear about his determination to shine at the national championships and inherit the title currently held by Jpan-based Rodgers Kwemoi.
Also expected to raise the stakes in this race are 2017 under 18 2000m steeplechase champion Leonard Bett, San Silvestre Vallecana champion Daniel Simiu and 2018 Commonwealth 5000m bronze medalist Edward Zakayo.
In the women's senior race, it will be similarly an intense battle even as two-time Olympic 5000m silver medalist Hellen Obiri (Defence Forces) and last year's winner Sheila Chelangat (Police) give the event a wide berth.
The 2015 Africa Games 10,000m champion Alice Aprot, Nocturna Valencia 15km champion Joyce Chepkemoi, 2016 Africa 5000m champion Sheila Chepkirui and 2015 World Cross Country silver medalist Irene Cheptai are among the big names many bookmakers will tip for glory at Kapseret on Saturday.
However, considering the unpredictable nature of the cross country, it would not be surprising for new names to emerge from the event, which is a dry run for the Agnes Tirop Cross Country Tour on February 12 at the same venue.
Commenting on the national championship, Athletics Kenya's Director of Youth Development Barnaba Korir said they are eagerly awaiting the competition.
"We are really looking forward to the championship. It is one of the opportunities to enjoy some cross country action. As you know, the World Cross Country Championships that was to be held in Australia this year has been postponed to 2023. So, alongside the World Cross Country Tour, the national championship provides our athletes with a chance to compete," Korir said.
Korir, also the chair of AK Nairobi region, expressed optimism their representatives will churn out great performances on Saturday.
"We are going to have athletes in all the four categories. In the 2020/21 season, there were challenges mainly related to Covid-19, which complicated training. This time, we have prepared and hope many of our athletes will get podium places," he said.
Apart from the senior categories, other races to be contested include the under 20 and under 18 for boys and girls as well as the mixed relay.