Seasoned track runners Thomas Longosiwa and Silas Kiplagat take the battle to defending champion Philip Lagat at the Kenya Prisons Service Cross Country Championships scheduled for Uhuru Gardens on Saturday.
The race will be a season opener for Longosiwa, who is London Olympics 5,000m bronze medallist and Kiplagat, the 2011 World Championships 1,500m silver medallist.
Longosiwa was not selected for last year’s World Championships in Beijing. Kiplagat finished fifth in the 1,500m race at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Both athletes are eyeing places in the national team for Rio Olympic Games in August.
“The season is still fresh, we have a long way to go. God has his own plans for me and I hope all will go well,” said Kiplagat.
Besides clinching the 2010 Commonwealth 1,500m gold medal, Kiplagat, 26, has not won any other major title. But he is not worried about his performance.
“I have been consistent in the last five years and this is important to me,” said Kiplagat, the 2012 and 2014 Diamond League Series 1,500m winner.
Lagat must also watch out for Vincent Rono, whom he beat to second place to win the Prisons Cross last year, the 2014/2015 Athletics Kenya Cross Country Series winner Cornelius Kangogo and 2012 Africa Cross champion John Mwangangi.
Kangogo regained the title he won in 2013 at the 44th edition of the Houilles 10km race in Paris on December 27, before finishing second at Lemans Road race in France on Sunday.
Cleophas Ng’etich, the winner of the 2015/2016 Athletics Kenya Cross Series in Embu and Nyahururu as well as Timothy Cheruiyot, who came third at Belfast Cross in Northern Ireland last Saturday, will add spice to the race.
In the women’s race, defending champion Cynthia Cherotich is preparing for a bruising battle.
In form Nancy Nzisa, who has competed in several cross country meetings this season, is tipped to give Cherotich a run for her money.
Visiline Jepkesho, who finished 20th in the marathon at last year’s World Championships in Beijing and Naomi Chebet are waiting in the wings.
Prisons coach Steven Mwaniki told athletes to prepare for a tough course. He said: Be ready for a wet course because of the rains. The course is in great shape but it is challenging.”