Race to National Cross Country Championships

Former women 1500m world U-20 champion Edna Jebitok in a past championship. [PHOTO/ COURTESY]

Athletics Kenya (AK) Nairobi branch will hold its regional Cross-Country Championships at Nairobi West Prisons Grounds on Saturday.

Set to headline the expected cutthroat competition is former World U-20 women's champion Edna Jebitok who is fresh from a series of competitions in Europe.

The former World-U18 silver medalist0 is expected to meet tough opposition from Nairobi area athletes based in Ngong and Eldoret where they train.

"Only top two finishers in each category will clinch tickets to the national championships, set for Lobo Village in Eldoret on January 22, 2022," AK Nairobi Branch chairman Barnaba Korir told Standard Sports.

"Four categories will be contested at the event and they include the men and women's  U20 and the men and women's 10km contests in the senior categories," Korir said.

The National Olympic Committee-Kenya Executive Member belives Nairobi will produce a strong squad that will give other major institutions, including the Kenya Prisons, Kenya Defence Forces and the Kenya Police Services, a run for their money at the nationals.

"I believe we will have a very competent team in the men and women's U-20 slots.

"Nairobi has always produced some of the best athletes to represent this country internationally and they continue to do so well in major championships across the world," said Korir who also doubles up as Athletics Kenya Youth Director.

Korir said Nairobi will show up in large numbers in Eldoret to cheer and encourage their athletes as the branch mission is to complete a podium sweep in the nationals.

The nationals will act as a dry run for the prestigious World Athletics Gold Tour, dubbed the Agnes Tirop World Cross Country Gold Tour, in honour of the 2015 World Cross Country women's champion who was found murdered at her home in Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet, late last year.

The Gold Tour will be held at the Lobo Village next month.

Men's 10000m and 5000m record holder Joshua Cheptegei, men's Half Marathon champion Jacob Kiplimo, both of Uganda, and double World Cross Country champion Geoffrey Kamworor are among the world beaters who have confirmed participation for the Gold Tour.

"Despite the World Cross Country championships being postponed to 2023, there's a lot of excitement in the discipline after Kenya was awarded the rights to host one of the legs of the World Athletics Cross Gold Tour series.

"We encourage our top athletes to take part in this event which is like the Kip Keino Classic.

"This race gives athletes the opportunity to participate

in major events which attract very good prize money awarded after points have been compiled at the end of the 14'leg circuit," said Korir.