Fireworks are expected when the second leg of Athletics Kenya cross country meeting gets underway at Koitalel Samoei University College in Nandi County tomorrow.
Reigning world cross country champion Hellen Obiri, winner of the first meet in Machakos last month, will lead the women’s onslaught.
Obiri, who competes for Kenya Defence Forces, will be up against an armada of world beating stars among them home-girl and world 21km record holder Peres Jepchirchir. The showpiece, which attracts more than 40,000 spectators in Nandi County — that prides itself as the source of champions — will no doubt send adrenaline pulse racing.
The event in Central Rift, always billed as the biggest cross country meeting in terms of entries and crowd attendance, also serves as dress rehearsal for the 44th world cross country championships in Bathurst, Australia, on March 20, next year.
Cross country competitions in the county have turned out as a local take-off point for athletic talent to flourish. This is where budding athletes are nurtured and sanctified to conquer the world.
But Obiri, the reigning world 5000m champion, will not defend her world cross country title. She has instead opted to focus on 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, where she would compete in 5000m and 10000m.
“I will not defend my title at the World cross country championships next year. I am focusing on Tokyo Olympic Games and I will use the cross country races as part of my preparation,” she said.
In the men’s front, Commonwealth Games 3000m steeplechase silver medalist Abraham Kibiwott and two-time world marathon champion Abel Kirui headline a classy line-up. Abraham Mutai, the Central Rift AK chairman, said they expect a high turnout.