The national Cross Country team returns to Bydgoszcz, Poland, tonight hoping for a repeat of the 2010 exploits when Kenyan runners dominated, taking all four individual titles and all four team titles at the competition.
Kenya took the top four spots in both junior men’s and junior women’s races to finish with a perfect team score.
The 24-man team that has been camping at the Kigari Teachers College in Embu for the last one month, concluded its preparations yesterday and is all set for Sunday’s championships, according to Athletics Kenya Public Relations Officer, Peter Angwenyi.
“The team may appear to be comprised mainly of new talents but still they have what it takes to bring back a good result,” Angwenyi told Daily Nation.
The squad, under team manager Paul Mutwii and head coach Sammy Rono, was in Siakago for its final training yesterday morning after one month-long alternate sessions in Mount Kenya region, Mwea and Runyenjes.
The star-studded Kenyan team has World Junior 1,500m and 3,000m golden pair Faith Chepng’etich and Conceslus Kipruto, who are expected to light up Bydgoszcz by replicating the form that won them gold medals during the World Junior championships in Barcelona in 2011.
Chepng’etich was just 17 at the time
Chepng’etich, who will be taking part in the junior women’s 6km, was just 17 years old when she won the junior women’s title in 2011 during the IAAF World Cross Country in Punta Umbria, Spain.
World junior 5,000m bronze medallist Agnes Chebet, a favourite to bag gold in Poland is also in the team.
She has finished behind Chepng’etich in many of the AK cross country meetings and therefore has potential to pull a surprise in Bydgoszcz.
Newcomers Pauline Kaveke, Sheila Keter and Caroline Chepkoech are also on the junior women list.
The 2012 World Junior championships 10,000m bronze medallist Geoffrey Kirui, Hosea Mwok Macharinyang, who won three consecutive World Cross country championships titles for Kenya (2006, 2007 and 2008) as well as 2011 Eurocross champion Japheth Korir, will headline the 12km men’s contest.
Timothy Kiptoo, the 2012 Africa Championships 5,000m champion, 2009 Africa Junior championships 3,000m winner Jonathan Ndiku and Philemon Rono, winner of 2011 Tilburg ten miles gold medal will complete in the men’s 12km race.
School boy, Moses Mukono, and World Junior 3,000m steeplechase champion Conceslus Kipruto, Michael Bett, Emmanuel Bett, Leonard Barsoton and Ronald Kwemoi are the juniors to watch in the 8km men’s race.
Mukono, a form four student at St. Patrick’s High School in Iten, should draw some inspirations from world 800m record holder David Rudisha with whom they come from the same village, Masurura village in Kilgoris. Mukono finished eighth during the World Junior championships 5,000 m race.
Aware of the tough opposition
“I am aware of the opposition I am likely to face in Poland from athletes from other countries but I am ready for it,” said the 18-year-old Maasai moran.
With the 2010 World Cross country medal (one she bagged in Bydgoszcz’s Myslecinek Park in 2010) still safely tucked in her cabinet, Emily Chebet headlines the list for the 8km senior women contest.
Chebet hopes to repeat the feat she achieved in Poland three years ago, when she won individual women’s title in 24:19 ahead of compatriot Linet Masai (24:20) and third placed Ethiopian Meselech Melkamu who timed 26:26.
However, Chebet will have to watch out for her compatriot Viola Kibiwot, a high altitude athlete from Iten, who says she is determined to break an eight-year streak without world cross medal. Kibiwot last won in Dublin in 2002.
Janeth Kisa, Margaret Wangari, Beatrice Chepkemei and Irene Cheptai are new some of the new faces in the senior women’s squad.
“I am very thirsty for a medal. It has been long since I competed in such a big race. I am almost the only veteran here, but I will not underrate the young talents that will be competing with me,” Kibiwot said.