The Kenya Defense Forces Cross Country Championships go down on Saturday morning at Thika Barracks with a star-studded field in both men and women’s senior races.
However, it’s the 15km road race that will open the day’s proceedings at 7am to be followed by senior women’s 8km race at 9.30am and senior men’s 12km race.
KDF will use the event to pick their team for the cut-throat National Cross Championships-cum-trials due February 16 at Uhuru Gardens, Nairobi.
The evergreen Africa 10,000m silver medallist Mark Kiptoo and Boston Marathon champion and World marathon bronze medallist Sharon Cherop have a battle at hand as they put their individual titles on the line.
The 35-year-old Kiptoo, the 2007 and 2011 World Military 5,000m champion, will particularly be under pressure from both established and upcoming athletes.
It will be interesting to see how John Chepkwony, who won the 2011 KDF Cross Country, will play his cards in the field that will also have the 2011 World Cross Country bronze medallist Vincent Kiprop.
KDF has lot of faith in Chepkwony, the 2010 World Junior 5,000m silver medallist alongside Kiprop, who is also the 2007 World Cross Country junior silver medallist.
Kiprop was fifth at the 2012 African Cross Country Championships, taking the team title with Kenya.
However, things won’t be a bed of roses for the aforementioned as they prepare to face off with some of the most promising youngsters in the KDF stable.
They include Peter Mateelong, who has ruffled feathers in the just concluded National Cross Country Series, Linus Chumba and Richard Mureithi.
Peter is the younger brother of Commonwealth Games 3,000m steeplechase champion Richard Mateelong.
The women’s competition will be another clash to behold.
What with defending champion Sharon Cherop coming up against the 2011 champion Linet Chepkirui, Gladys Cherono, Gladys Chepng’eno and Jemimah Jelagat.
Both athletes are in the squad for 20-day specialised training in Ngong.
Cherono has been on top form since leading Kenya to Chiba Ekiden victory in November, covering her distance in women relay a record time. Cherono won the Embu leg of the local series.
Chepkirui, who has vast experience in cross having represented Kenya in the three World Cross events, couldn’t defend her KDF title last year owing to an injury.
Her return should spice up the clash that will also boast the likes of Jelagat.