All roads lead to the Kenya Prisons Training College in Ruiru on Saturday as hundreds of athletes from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) battle for individual and team titles at the National Cross Country Championships.
Past editions of this annual event have always provided memorable moments for both fans and athletes and this year’s edition promises to be no different, judging by the start list released by Athletics Kenya.
In the senior women’s 10km race, several youngsters who have shone in the junior category will be seeking to continue their transition into the senior level with a good showing in Ruiru.
Africa 1500m silver medalist Purity Chepkirui has performed exceptionally well in World Cross Country Tour, finishing first, second and third at San Sebastian, Atapuerca and Sevilla cross country races respectively.
The national cross country championships presents the perfect chance for the 2021 World Under 20 champion to affirm her status on home soil as one of Kenya’s brightest sparks in athletics.
Also in contention will be the 2021 World Under 20 3000m champion Teresia Gateri Muthoni who will be hoping to overcome the disappointment in her last cross-country race when she failed to finish at the Agnes Tirop Memorial Cross Country Tour in Eldoret in February last year.
However, the two will have to contend with a host of other elite athletes who have been there and done that. Two-time Chicago Marathon champion will lead her team from the Kenya Prisons, which comprise Fancy Cherono, Sheila Chepkirui, Beatrice Cheburet, Caren Chebet and Viciline Jepkesio.
The 2014 Commonwealth Games 5000m champion Mercy Cherono headlines a star-packed contingent of Kenya Police, which include Africa 10,000m champion Caroline Nyaga, the 2009 World 10,000m champion Linet Masai, Faith Kimutai, Gladys Kwamboka and Stacy Ndiwa.
The 2020 Africa Cross Country men’s champion Alfred Barkach will be hoping to pick up from where he left off when he comes up against an equally experienced field boasting of elite athletes who have tasted glory in the past.
Among them is the 2018 World Under 20 3000m steeplechase silver medalist Leonard Bett who will be keen to put behind a disappointing year in which he failed to secure a podium finish at the World Championships in Oregon, in addition to finishing seventh at the Agnes Tirop Memorial Cross Country Tour.
From North Rift comes the 2018 Africa Under 20 5000m bronze medalist Reuben Longosiwa who will be hoping for a good result to resuscitate his tattered form of late. Longosiwa’s last race was a 10th place finish at the Lille 10km race in October last year.
Other categories that will be contested at this World Athletics Tour bronze event include the under 20 8km and 6km men and women’s races as well as the mixed relays pitting the different teams of AK regions and affiliates against each other.
Winners of the senior men’s and women’s races will walk away with Kes 100,0000 ($1000) whereas the Under 20 winners will each receive Kes 40,000 ($400). The mixed relay winners will carry home Kes 120,000 ($1200).
The total prize money on offer – in line with the requirements of the World Athletics Tour levels – is Kes 16 million ($16, 230).