The Kenya Defence Forces and Kenya Prisons Service national cross country-bound teams begin their residential camps today ahead of the February 23 event which will also act as trials for the World Cross Country Championships in Aarhus, Denmark on March 30.
KDF, who held their championships at Kahawa Barracks last Friday, will camp at the Eldoret showground while Prisons will be at their Staff Training College in Ruiru, venue of their last weekend’s championships.
Meanwhile, National Police Service, who saw defending world cross champion Geoffrey Kamworor grab a sixth title at the Ngong Racecourse over the weekend, are still consulting on a perfect hideout with a decision set to be made by next week.
The national trials will be held outside Nairobi for the first time, and in the afternoon — another first, and Police coach Isaac Kirwa is optimistic that they will extend their dominance over their rivals especially Police, Prisons and the running counties from the Rift Valley.
“The battle will be so intense bearing in mind that as Police, we will be seeking to defend our national titles, both the overall and men’s senior,” said Kirwa.
Kamworor, who is also a three-time world half marathon champion will be seeking a hat-trick of world cross titles at Aarhus as he seeks to emulate former world marathon record holder and current National Olympics Committee of Kenya (NOC-K) president Paul Tergat and John Ngugi, who claimed five titles each.
Tergat won the world title five times in a row between 1995 and 1999 while Ngugi won took the honours between 1986 and 1989 before reclaiming it in 1992.
In addition to Kamworor, Police has a decorated crew that also features Valencia Half Marathon champion Matthew Kisorio, Josephat Bett and Emmanuel Bett. World 3,000m steeplechase record holder Beatrice Chepkoech, 2015 world 3000m steeplechase champion Hyvin Kiyeng and 2015 All Africa Games 5000m champion Margaret Chelimo, who won the women’s race over the weekend, headline the women’s Police sextet.
Veteran KDF coach Julius Kirwa was also optimistic that they can overthrow Police and return the coveted trophy to the Department of Defence headquarters.
“Eldoret showground is near the trials’ venue, Eldoret Sports Club, and this will help our athletes acclimatize accordingly ahead of the d-day as we seek to secure the overall title,” said Kirwa.
World 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri leads the KDF women’s list alongside Irene Kimais, Deborah Samum, Dorcas Kimeli, Caroline Chepkemoi and Mercy Wanjiru. Kibiwott Kandie, Lawi Komen, Vedic Cheruiyot, Jairus Songok, Stephen Arita and Vincent Mutai will do battle in the men’s race.
Prisons’ head coach Gideon Chirchir said they will be spoiling for a fight bearing in mind the calibre of runners in their stable.
“We have top athletes to claim the national title. The team will start streaming in the camp on Thursday (today) in Ruiru but we will be conducting our training in Ngong. It is a good place for training and which has produced top athletes,” said Chirchir in Eldoret.
Africa cross champion Celliphine Chespol, Alice Aprot, Loise Chemining, 2016 Africa cross bronze medallist Charles Mneria and Silas Kiplagat are among the top stars in the team.
“Athletics Kenya has brought athletics to the owners and we are expecting good turn up as fans cheer their young people compete on home ground,” said Abraham Mutai, the Central Rift AK chairman.