Star-studded cast for today’s Police X-country at Ngong

Some of Kenya’s finest athletes will face off at the Kenya Police Service National Cross-country Championship Saturday morning at Ngong Racecourse.

Friday January 15 2016

Vivian Cheruiyot competes during the National Athletics Championships women's 1500m heats on July 9, 2015 at the Safaricom Kasarani Stadium. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |

Vivian Cheruiyot competes during the National Athletics Championships women's 1500m heats on July 9, 2015 at the Safaricom Kasarani Stadium. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By AYUMBA AYODI
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Some of Kenya’s finest athletes will face off at the Kenya Police Service National Cross-country Championship Saturday morning at Ngong Racecourse.

The 2011 World Cross Country champion Vivian Cheruiyot is the star attraction as she takes the battle to former World Cross junior champions Mercy Cherono and Linet Masai in women’s 10km race.

It will be Cheruiyot’s first major race since reclaiming her World 10,000m title in August in Beijing. Masai, who won World Junior Cross in 2007, is gradually making a comeback after many seasons out with injury.

Masai is fresh from winning the San Silvestre Vallecana 10km race in Madrid on New Year’s eve. Masai has over the seasons struggled with injuries but after her victory in Madrid signals good things to come. Kenya Police coach Isaac Kirwa said Masai, who took silver in the World Cross-country senior race in 2009, 2010 and 2011, is back in shape.

“Masai is rearing to go and could be a person to beat tomorrow,” said Kirwa adding that the course at Racecourse is in perfect condition. “It will be great to see how Cheruiyot will handle the rich field.”

Cherono is back after a lukewarm 2015 season where she failed to make Kenya’s team for the World Cross-country Championships.

Cherono fired an early warning shot when she won the Amorebieta Cross Country on Sunday.

“I want to test my body and see how far I can go as I focus on the Olympics,” said 2014 Commonwealth 5,000m champion Cherono.

Defending champion Stacy Ndiwa and former champion Lucy Kabuu are out of Saturday’s event. Ndiwa has taken a maternity leave while Kabuu is nursing an injury.

Also is the mix are African Games 5,000m champion Margaret Chelimo, Janet Kisa who finished 12th at World Cross last year, Chicago Marathon champion Florence Kiplagat and two-time World marathon champion Edna Kiplagat. Florence, the World Half Marathon record holder and Edna are preparing for London Marathon due April 26.

World Cross Country champion Geoffrey Kamworor who is also the defending champion will take on 2013 national champion Philemon Rono, World 1,500m champion Asbel Kiprop and 2013 World 5,000m bronze medallist Isaiah Kiplangat in men’s 10km race.

The 2009 and 2011 World Marathon champion Abel Kirui who is also the 2012 London Olympic marathon silver medallist and 2012 London Olympics marathon bronze medallist Wilson Kipsang will use the event to refine their skills. The 2015 Hamburg Marathon winner Lucas Rotich, 2013 World Cross junior silver medallist Leonard Barsaton and Augustin Choge will miss Saturday’s action.

Police will use the event to select a team for the National Championships due February 13 where the national team will be named to compete in the African Cross-country championships.