Chelang'at and Obiri lead big shots at national cross country trials
Hellen Obiri celebrates winning the women 10km race during the Athletics kenya Defence Forces 40th Cross Country championship 10km race at Moi Airbase Eastleigh in Nairobi on January 29, 2021. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

There will be no love lost when top guns face off at the national cross country trials at Ngong Race Course tomorrow.

There will hardly be any room for errors as the athletes battle for the automatic slots for the first four across the line.

Athletics Kenya will use the showpiece to pick a team to Africa cross country championships in Lome, Togo, on March 6-7.

It no doubt promises to be an explosive national trial but most of the top athletes are not keen on the continental showpiece.

After years of playing the understudy, a legion of young women athletes, who have graduated into the senior ranks, are threatening to seize the moment and cut a niche for themselves.

The contest has over the years been billed as a battleground for the disciplined forces –Police, Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and Kenya Prisons –but the emergence of new stars from South Rift and Central Rift regions sets the adrenaline pulse racing.

Policewomen have recently been staging impressive shows and a lot is expected when Sheila Chelang’at leads 2015 world 3,000m steeplechase champion Hyvin Kiyeng, world 5000m silver medallist Margaret Chelimo, Edith Chelimo, Faith Kimutai and Caroline Nyaga against strong opposition from Kenya Defences Forces and Kenya Prisons.

World cross country champion Hellen Obiri will not compete in 12km and has opted to compete in mixed relays.

Obiri’s absence will not water down the contest nonetheless as prisons bigwigs in Rosemary Wanjiru, former Africa cross country champion Alice Aprot, 2017 world cross country bronze medallist Lilian Kasait, Loice Cheming, Abigael Chelag’at and Gladys Cherono seek to lock up the opposition.

When Gideon Chirchir, the Prisons head coach, is sitting down by the fire with a glass of his favourite drink mursik, he must be wondering whether he has enough ammunition to protect his charges against the KDF invasion.

Joyce Chepkemoi, Nespine Chepleting, Peninah Kandie, Esther Chemutai and Gladys Chemweno will lead KDF’s brigade.

New talents from other regions present a surprise factor. They include North Rift’s Vicotty Chepng’eno, 2017 world cross country champion Irene Cheptai and Daisy Kimeli.  

Central Rift Region’s Eva Cherono, Agnes Chebet, Betty Chepkemboi and Jackline Chepng’eno, Mercy Chepkorir and Beatrice Chebet of South Rift, are also in the mix.

Agnes Mumbua, Cecilia Wayua, Lucy Muli and Christine Ndanu will lead the South region squad as Sandra Chebet, Emily Chebet, Margaret Nduta, Naomi Chepkemoi, Ruth Chepng’etich and Margaret Ngoiri anchor the Nairobi team.

Two-time Chemususu half marathon winner Delvin Meringor, Beatrice Cherubet, Salome Chepchumba, Sarah Naibei, Susan Chemtai and Phanice Cheboriot will fly the Western Region’s flag as Maseline Cherono, Betty Chepng’eno, Everline Chirchir, Eunice Kwamboka, Joyline Chemutai and Tecla Kwambai represent Nyanza North region.

Winfidah Moseti, Teresa Omosa, Lorna Nyabocha and Damaris Areba are among stars from Nyanza South.

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