Two youth races that have been introduced at next year’s Africa Cross Country Championships will feature for the first time during the second leg of Athletics Kenya Cross Country Series due Saturday in Sotik.
The events are the Under-18 categories boys’ 6km and girls’ 5km races that will start the busy day at 9am, before paving way for the other five races; Women’s Under-20 6km, Men’s Under-20 80km, Women’s 10km, Men’s 10km and Mixed Relays.
Athletics Kenya Bomet Branch chairman, John Kimetto said this season’s Series are quite crucial since it marks the countdown towards Africa Cross Country Championships slated for March 1 next year in Lome, Togo.
World 1,500m silver medallist Faith Chepng'etich will battle World 3,000m steeplechase champion Beatrice Chepkoech in women’s 10km race.
Chepkoech, who finished seventh in women’s 10km race at the World Cross Country Championships in March this year, won her maiden world title in a championship record time of 8:57.84 CR, beating previous holder Emma Coburn from USA to second place in personal best 9:02.35.
Chepng'etich, who had just returned from maternity break, failed to defend her world title, losing the battle to Sifan Hassan from The Netherlands.
However, Chepng’etich bettered her National record time to 3:54.22 with Hassan, who had earlier won the 10,000m title, cracking a Championships and Area Record time of 3:51.95.
Chepng’etich, the 2014 National and Africa Cross champion, won in Sotik back in 2015 while it will be the first time Chepkoech will be competing at the South Rift region event.
Chepng'etich and Chepkoech should brace up for a battle of wits from former World 5,000m silver medallist Marcy Cherono, who is making a return from maternity leave, and defending champion Miriam Cherop among other elite senior athletes.
Africa Cross Country champion Alfred Barkach has thrown down the gauntlet ahead of the men’s 10km race, where Kenya Defence Forces' Frankline Ngelel will renew his rivalry with Bomet's duo of Julius Tanki and Leonard Bett.
Ngelel floored Tanki, who was the defending champion, and Bett, the World Under-20 3,000m steeplechase silver medallist, to win men's 10km race during the first leg of Athletics Kenya Cross Country Series at the People's Park, Machakos on November 23.
World Cross Country Under-20 champion Beatrice Chebet from Londiani will highlight the junior race that will have the likes of Edinah Jebitok, Emmaculate Anyango, Celestine Chepkirui, Desma Chepkoech and Cynthia Chepngeno.