Geoffrey Kamworor from Kenya Police and Kenya Prison’s Alice Aprot put their titles on the line at the National Cross Country Championships on Saturday at Uhuru Gardens.
Athletics Kenya will use the event to pick the team for the World Cross Country Championship.
The women’s Under-20 race gets the proceedings off at 8am followed by the men’s Under-20 battle 30 minutes later.
Senior women and men’s races get underway at 9.30am and 10.30am respectively with the newly introduced mixed relays wrapping up action at 11.30am.
It’s left to be known just how Kamworor will handle the rich filed having been out of action since the Rio Olympics where he finished 11th in the 10,000m final.
After losing to three times champion Bedan Karoki in 2015, Kamworor went on to win the World Cross Country that year, beating Karoki to second place.
Kamworor then claimed the National Cross title last year, this time around edging out his good friend Karoki to second place. They then mirrored their positions at the World Half Marathon last year.
Kamworor fell sick just after Rio and stayed away for two months before dislocating his arm upon return in training.
He was not fit to defend his Kenya Police Cross title having resumed training in December. Augustine Choge capitalised on Kamworor’s absence to win.
"I am back to defend my national title. I want a ticket to defend my world title too," said Kamworor. "I have recovered and ready to go."
A day after Kamworor announced his return, Karoki, who had earlier indicated that he would skip the National Cross to prepare for his marathon debut in London in April, rescinded his decision.
Interestingly, the Japan-based Karoki shifted his allegiance from Central Region to join Kamworor and Choge, the World Indoor 3,000 bronze medallist, at Kenya Police.
"I am happy to join my good friends at Police and fans should expect a pulsating race," said Karoki, who won Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) Half Marathon Friday last week in a personal best of 59:19.
"I am using the races as my preparations for London Marathon."
Karoki is targeting his third National Cross title after previous wins in 2012, 2014 and 2015 while Choge is chasing his maiden victory.
Others in the Police team are 2013 World Cross junior silver medallist Bernard Barsaton and the 2013 national champion Philemon Rono.
The Police team faces a stiff challenge from across the regions and other institutions. Of keen interest is the Nairobi Region that has Africa Cross Country champion James Rungaru and 2014 Africa Cross junior medallists Moses Mukono and Andrew Lorot.
The 2013 World Cross Country champion, Japheth Korir, who won the Kajiado leg of the Athletics Kenya Cross series and the South Rift Region should be watched closely alongside Kenya Prisons champion Katui Muia.
Japan-based William Sitonik and the 2008 World Cross silver medallist Leonard Komon will battle for Coast while Stephen Arita and Peter Mateelong will represent Eastern.
Aprot, who is the Africa and Kenya Prisons Cross champion, has a battle at hand as she prepares to face World Cross Country champion Agnes Tirop, who has been drafted by Kenya Police and the 2015 National Champion Faith Chepng’etich, who is also the Olympic 1,500m champion.
Chepng’etich will team up with the 2013 World Youth 3,000m champion Lilian Kasait from South Rift.
Kasait won the South Rift Cross, stunning Chepng’etich to second.
Two times World Cross Country junior champion Viola Kibiwott, who won in Central Rift, is also in the senior women’s race that also has World 3,000m steeplechase champion Hyvin Kiyeng and 2012 World Half Marathon bronze medallist Pascalia Jepkorir all from Police.