By Joseph Ngure
Former World Half Marathon champion Wilson Kiprop and All Africa Games 1,500m silver medallist Joyce Chepkirui will lead a galaxy of stars in Sunday Nike Discovery cross country championships in Eldoret town.
The duo will be keen to defend their titles in the senior races as dark horses work on a formula to turn around their fortunes in the event sponsored by American sports apparel manufacturing giant Nike.
Kiprop will face a stern test against World Marathon Majors winner Geoffrey Mutai, who finished second in the Kenya Police championship last week. The two met in last year’s race where Kiprop prevailed.
Chepkirui, will have her run checked by rival Georgina Rono.
For the last 21 years, Discovery Kenya Cross-country, the brainchild of former 10,000m world champion and two-times Boston marathon winner Moses Tanui, has been used to unearth new talents that have gone on to dominate in global events.
The annual event has 10 categories including short races for children covering a distances ranging from 500m to 4km for both boys and girls aged between 5 and 14 years.
Other stars on parade will be Faith Chepng’etich, cross-country jackpot winners Agnes Chebet and Moses Mukono.
But the focus will be on Chepkirui, who is focusing on the World title this year alongside 2010 World cross champion Emily Chebet. Chebet, who runs for Administration Police, has made a few appearances locally and the Sunday race would be a launching bid for her conquest.
She won the category last after edging out Daegu and London runner up Priscah Jeptoo and Georgina Rono. It will also be a chance for former double world champion Vivian Cheruiyot to redeem herself after registering minimum success in the police championship.
Wilson Kiprop, who was enjoying top form, outshone Mutai, disgraced Mathew Kisorio and upcoming Charles Kimeli, winning the senior men’s title in 34:53.0 on the sharp edged course that has been used since the inception of the event.
With Gladys Chesir and Caroline Kipkoech yet to appear on the local competitions, Faith Chepng’etich, who will be keen to defend her title in Poland, will be on the saddles. She will face Agnes Chebet, who won the Kenya Commercial Bank Sh200,000 cross country jackpot two weeks ago.
The junior men side will be having new faces after top finishers William Malel, Japhet Korir and Philemon Yator graduated to the senior ranks.
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Moses Mukono, fourth last year, would be starting as the favourite after taking commanding victories in several outings this season.
Others likely to upset form book include Stanely Keter and Isaac Langat who are also enjoying good shape this year.