A graduation of young athletes, led by Linet Masai and Pauline Korikwiang, among others, is raising hopes of a better performance by Kenya in the senior women 8km race at the World Cross Country Championship in Amman, Jordan in March.
At an age when many have long quit running, Edith Masai has been up there with the best, representing Kenya in cross country running and now in the marathon. She is also the last woman to win a World Cross Country Championship gold medal for Kenya, in Brussels, Belgium in 2004.
Head coach, Julius Kirwa, has already confirmed that he will have trouble picking the team for the senior women’s 8km team in which Kenya has yet to win a gold medal at the world championships.
“These young athletes have come through the ranks strongly breaking from the previous style where Kenya dominated the junior races only for them to disappear from the scene. We now have a challenge and positions are not automatic any more in this race,” said Kirwa.
Masai, a younger sister to fellow Kenya Police runner Moses Masai, is back home for the trials for which she prepared in Europe and has been included in the Kenya Police team despite missing their championship three weeks ago.
She faces an uphill task for a place on the senior women 8km team from among others, Chepkurui who returned from a hamstring injury to win the Nyahururu, Eldoret Wareng cross country and Armed Forces Championships.
“I have been struggling. It has been a slow process to regain fitness. But after my performance, I have more confidence to triumph at the trials,” she said.
Others in the race for a place on the team to Amman are Chepkurui’s team mates Ines Chenonges, Irene Limika all of whom will be keen on catching the coach’s eye.
While Masai has dwarfed her opponents abroad, Pauline Korikwiang has been in good form at home winning Machakos, Meru and in Eldoret Athletics Kenya weekend meetings.
Grace Momanyi, Priscah Jepleting, the world 5,000m bronze medallist, Ruth Bosibori, Sylvia Kibet - younger sister to Dutchwoman Hilda Kibet, the European cross country champion - Eunice Jepkorir Olympic silver medallist in steeplechase and Margaret Wangari of Kenya Police are also in with a chance.