Central’s Bedan Karoki and Faith Chepng’etich from South Rift are ready to defend their titles when the National Cross Country Championships go down Saturday at Uhuru Gardens.
The duo face some of world’s best in the IAAF Permit meet where Athletics Kenya targets to shortlist a team for the Africa Cross Country Championships slated for March 12 in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
“I am ready and I hope for the best,” said Karoki, the World Cross Country silver medallist.
“I will just stay behind the pack to gauge their strength then go for the kill once again when the opportune time comes.”
The women's defending champion Chepng’etich, said she will put her best foot forward even though she is not 100 per cent fit.
“It’s my desire to defend my title,” said the World 1,500m silver medallist who won the 34rd Cross Internacional de Italica in Seville, Spain on last month.
Karoki, 25, who has won the national title four times, is gunning for a third straight victory in a race where he will renew his rivalry with World Cross Country champion Geoffrey Kamworor.
The last time Karoki and Kamworor met was during the 25th edition of the Discovery Cross Country on January 31 where Karoki carried the day as Kamworor, who had just retained the Kenya Police Cross Country title failed to finish.
Karoki edged out Kamworor, who is also the World 10,000m silver medallist, to second place during last year’ National Cross Country championships at the same track.
Kamworor would later claim revenge at the World Cross Country championships in Guiyang, China, where the two staged a 1-2 finish for Team Kenya.
At the World Championships in Beijing, China last year, Kamworor took silver while Karoki had to settle for a fourth-placed finish.
“It will be a fascinating battle and I hope to edge out my good friend Kamworor again,” said Karoki.
“I hope we shall once more form the formidable partnership at the World Half Marathon if selected.”
Unlike Karoki, Kamworor's strategy is to attack from the front.
“This is the kind of challenge I always want as it makes me feel great winning against the world’s best,” said Kamworor.
“I am a front runner and that is where I will launch my attack from.”
Kamworor’s Police squad has Japan-based Leonard Barsaton, who is the reigning Africa Cross Country champion, the 2013 National champion Philemon Rono and the 2012 Africa Cross champion Clement Lagat.
Karoki’s Central has little-known John Maina, Bernard Waweru, George Waiyaki, Paul Mutero and Paul Maina.
Yigerem Demelash, the 2012 World Junior 10,000metres champion, and Birhan Mihretu from Ethiopia will spice up the men’s 10km race where Prisons Cross champion Vincent Rono leads the Prisons pack that has Africa Cross silver medallist, Cornelius Kangongo, and 2014 Commonwealth Games 3,000m steeplechase champion Jonathan Muya.
The 2011 Africa Cross Country champion John Mwangangi leads the Southern Region attack while the KDF team has their 10,000m champion Emmanuel Kipsang and AK Cross Country Machakos leg winner Stephen Arita.
Chepng’etich, 22, forms part of the South Rift team that has her experienced elder sister Beatrice Mutai, who finished 11th at the 2013 World Cross Country and Joan Ayaibei, who competed at the 2002 and 2003 World Cross Country Championships.
With the 2011 World Cross Country champion Vivian Cheruiyot missing in action, African Games 5,000m champion Margaret Chelimo and World 3,000m steeplechase gold medallist Hyvin Kiyeng lead the Kenya Police attack.
Africa Cross Country bronze medallist Janet Kisa and 2012 World Half Marathon bronze medallist Pascalia Jekorir complete the Kenya Police team.
Pauline Kaveke, who won the Kenya Prisons Cross Country championship leads her team that has regional Cross Country champion Nancy Nzisa and marathoner Visiline Jepkesho.
The KDF squad has 2005 World Youth 1,500 gold medallist Sheila Chepkirui, the 2007 World Cross junior bronze medallist Veronica Nyaruai and 2012 World Indoor 3,000m champion Hellen Obiri.
African Games 10,000m champion Alice Aprot and 2007 Africa Youth 1,500m silver medallist Joyline Chelang’at shall marshal Nairobi’s assault while 2012 World junior 3,000m champion Daisy Jepkemei leads the North Rift team.