Kenya’s elite runners must be consistent if the country is to win back individual titles at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Jordan next March.
Athletics Kenya secretary David Okeyo on Tuesday reinforced his call for the seasoned runners to honour local cross country meetings, saying there is still time for them to make up in the build-up to the March 24 global competition in Amman.
After three weekend meetings in Machakos, Kericho and Meru, AK has given the thumbs up to the general turnout but remained concerned over the absence of established runners.
“Cross country is supposed to be an event to help one to prepare for the season, be it on track or road race. We need them (elites) to come out and compete in local meetings which are sanctioned by us or the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF),” said Okeyo.
AK has no problems in the athletes who are competing in the IAAF meetings in Europe as they have contract obligations to honour, the AK official added.
“It is a demand by the IAAF that we allow these runners to compete in the meetings. They have showed that they are good and we must encourage them. But elite runners should not hide and show up on the day of trials and hope to be given special attention,” said Okeyo.
Both head coach Julius Kirwa and five times world cross country champion Paul Tergat, have also voiced their concerns over the continuous absence of the elite field in local meetings.
Tergat cautioned against complacence and over-confidence by elite runners saying they too must honour the remaining three national cross country series meetings and test their fitness ahead of global championship in Amman.
Tergat, also a former world marathon record holder, ruled the roost in the event in his prime time and knows the secret of a good season rests on early preparations and participation in the cross country.
“It will be difficult for many of the athletes. They have opted to skip the build up meetings and it will cost them dearly in the championship next year,” Tergat said.
Kenya posted its worst results in the 36 year history of the cross country championships in Edinburgh this year where, despite retaining the overall team title, they returned home without a single individual title in all the four races.
It was revenge for rivals Ethiopia who had faded off the stage in Mombasa in last year’s championships.
“After Edinburgh, they should be worried and try to put in extra effort so that they may win the individual titles. But staying away will water down the strength of the Kenyan team for another show,” said Tergat.
Okeyo has urged coaches to work extra hard to sharpen the skills of the runners as the country positions itself for the championship.
“As AK we can not force this athletes to compete in our meetings. But the coaches are with them every day, they should let them understand the need of competing in cross country.
“I expect the big names in the remaining meetings,” he said.
Kirwa also pointed out at the need for the elite runners to pick up their gear and start serious preparations.
He lauded Armed Forces for showing up in Meru and challenged both Prisons and Police runners to do the same in the remaining legs.
“It was important that they compete. Now the ball is in the courts of the other institutions and individual runners to follow suit.”
Time is running out, they either show up or forget about the trip to Jordan,” said Kirwa.