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Stakes high as clock ticks on National Cross Country

By Stephen Rutto - January 20th 2022

 

Edward Zakayo celebrates his victory during the 5000m final in Tampere, Finland in 2018.[File]

Upcoming athletes will be hoping to display raw talent as their elite counterparts seek to stamp authority at the National Cross Country Championships set for Eldoret this Saturday.

The national show will happen at the Lobo Village, where the inaugural World Cross Country Tour will be staged on February 12.

Regions and disciplined forces produced their fields for the national competitions after regional cross-country actions concluded with Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), National Police Service (NPS), Kenya Prisons Service (KPS) and the National Youth Service (NYS) championships last week, laying the ground for (expectedly) blistering races this Saturday.

The course hosted the Athletics Kenya Central Rift championships two weeks ago and according to organisers, cross-country athletes will take the same route in the upcoming National Cross-country competitions.

Happening in the country’s revered home of athletics, a jaw-dropping clash among athletics stars from the North, Central and South Rift regions is expected.

Focus will also be on traditional rivals from the disciplined forces, which are KDF, NPS and KPS.

North Rift will be presenting former World Under-20 5000m champion Edward Zakayo who is making a return after missing in action for two years.

Zakayo who trains in Iten and Kapsait in Elgeyo Marakwet shot to fame in 2017, when he made the team for the World Under-18 Championships at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani in Nairobi and bagged silver in 3000m. He lost to Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega.

And in 2018, he beat a strong field to clinch the World Under-20 5000m title in Tampere, Finland, teaching his archrival, Berega, an athletics lesson.

But he will have to contend with Olympian and former World Under-20 10000m champion Rhonex Kipruto who will be representing the NPS in the national cross-country championships. Kipruto also trains in Iten.

Kipruto won the NPS Cross Country Championships. Eight-time NPS cross-country winner Geoffrey Kamworor was unable to shine due to a groin injury.

Kipruto, a 10000m world bronze medallist has previously won Ndalat Gaa and Tuskys Cross country championships in Nandi and Uasin Gishu counties respectively.

Michael Kibet who was fifth in 10,000m at the Tokyo Olympics national trials last year, former winner of the Memorial Van Damme 10000m in 26:51.16 Emmanuel Bett, Joseph Kiptum and Josphat Kiprotich will also be running for NPS.

KDF will be represented by top guns such as former Olympic steeplechase bronze medallist Abel Mutai and road racer Erick Kiptanui and Vedic Cheruiyot.

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