Kenyan junior athletes are drawing inspiration from elite superstars as they prepare for the 42nd IAAF World Cross Country meet at the Kololo Independence grounds in Kampala, Uganda next Sunday.
The Kenyan charges are keen to reclaim the junior women’s title they lost to Ethiopia in Guiyang, China, in 2015. Olympic 1,500m champion Faith Chepngetich, three-time world 1,500m champion Asbel Kiprop, world 10km and 15km record holder Leonard Komon as well as World Cross Country champions Geoffrey Kamworor and Agnes Tirop are in the squad.
Immaculate Chepkirui, a standard seven pupil at Kibori Primary School in Kericho County will make her maiden appearance in a national team jersey.
Chepkirui, who trains with Commonwealth Games 5,000m champion Mercy Cherono in Sotik, is fired up for a good show in Kampala.
“I feel encouraged being in the national team with athletes like Faith Chepngetich and Asbel Kiprop.
“So far, I have learned so many skills from them and I hope it will help me win a medal in Kampala. We only need to work as a team to win the overall title,” she said.
She has another dream to fulfill at the World Cross Country showdown and that is to impress her classmates.
“I promised them that I will strive to win a medal and we celebrate the victory together,” said Chepkirui, the youngest athlete in the team.
Sandra-Felis Chebet, the world youth 2,000m steeplechase and world under-20 steeplechase silver medalist, hopes to stage a splendid performance in her debut in cross country.
“I have been to world youth and world junior championships. This is my first experience with the big names in national team. I am sure we will do well if we plan well. I expect to meet the same athletes I competed against in world youth (Cali, Colombia) and in Poland (World Under-20),” said Chebet.
The athlete, who trains at Londiani Athletics Club in Kericho County comes from a family with an athletics pedigree. “My dad was an athlete and I am grateful to have displayed better performances than him.”
Ronald Kirui, the Africa junior cross country silver medalist, longs to extend his continental shows to the global stage in style.
Kirui,19, is out to atone for his dismal performance in the World Under-20 in Poland last year, where he finished fifth in 10,000m despite being among the favourites for podium finish.
“I made some blunders in Poland and I hope to use the World Cross Country to prove a point. I know I can make it.
“My body is responding well to training, especially practicing with the seniors.
“I really long to follow in their footsteps,” said Kirui, who trains in Keringet Athletics Club in Nakuru County alongside Faith Chepngetich, a two time World Cross Country junior champion.