It’s a do-or-die battle as Kenya’s globetrotting stars lock horns in the chase for slots to Africa cross country championships that run in Lome, Togo, on March 6-7.
The battle pitting stars from uniformed forces —National Police Service, Kenya Prisons and Kenya Defence Forces –against civilians will no doubt result in a dogfight at the lush green and well-manicured Ngong Racecourse cross country circuit tomorrow.
The elite stars, who will square it out with a field of upstarts, must put their best foot forward to earn the prized tickets to the west African nation — which is a dress rehearsal ahead of Tokyo Olympic Games now that the World cross country championships have been postponed to next year.
The showpiece, which is usually sets the stage for exciting contests in track and road running in the season, promises a cocktail of hopes and exciting intrigues.
Most of the elite athletes will use the competition to size up against their opponents even as the meet stands out as a stage for upstarts to hog the limelight.
They will be hankering after places to the national team while they battle for honour, victory and, of course, disappointments.
A blunder from the start or getting tripped on the track could make the difference between victory and loss — the difference of a lifetime.
The clash pitting two-time World cross country champion Geoffrey Kamworor, former world cross country silver medalist Bedan Karoki, world 21km record holder Kibiwott Kandie and 2016 Africa cross country bronze medalist Charles Mneria in men’s signature race will certainly offer a sight to behold.
Then throw in Africa 10,000m silver medalist Wilfred Kimitei, Boaz Kipruto, Collins Koros, Eric Kiptanui and the light-hearted will tremble.
Nicholas Kosimbei, Commonwealth Games 3000m steeplechase bronze medalist Amos Kirui, Paul Mutero and Edwin Bett are also on the line up.
The women’s contest will certainly whet fans’ appetite when World cross country champion Hellen Obiri marshals KDF mixed relay squad as Sheila Chelang’at fights to arrest Rosemary Wanjiru of Prisons and 2017 world cross country champion Irene Cheptai of North Rift.
Fans will, however, miss the epic clash between Obiri and the gunpowder from police and prisons.
Obiri said: “I know KDF has a strong team. I have decided to give other athletes a chance to compete at the nationals. That’s why I will line up in mixed relays only.”
Barnaba Korir, the Athletics Kenya executive member said preparations were complete.
“Everything is ready. But expect stiff competition. It is one of the toughest national cross country trials in recent times,” said Korir.
World 1500m champion Timothy Cheruiyot and two-time world Under-20 3000m steeplechase champion Celliphine Chespol will also spice up the event.