Kenya and Ethiopia are set to renew distance rivalry as world U20 bronze medallist Faith Cherotich and Pamela Kosgei spearhead medal hunts in women's 3,000m steeplechase final as the World Under-20 Championships enters the fourth day in Cali, Colombia.
Cherotich qualified for the finals in second-fastest spot with 9:38.18, while Kosgei timed 10:09.89 behind Ethiopia's Sembo Almayew in the second heat.
The Kenyan duo will have to be at their best to contain the pre-race favourite Almayew who has already asserted her dominance from the outset of the onset of the championships on Monday's heats in 9:52.65.
Almayew finished second at the Paris Diamond League this year before finishing fifth in the opening round in Oregon World Championships. Her compatriot Meseret Yeshaneh, who clocked 9:41.99 in the heats, will also be in the mix.
Meanwhile, Kenya's Noah Kibet presents the biggest danger in men's 800m, whose heat starts tonight. The 18-year-old won bronze in this race last year and clocked a season's best of 1:44.89 in Ostrava in May before reaching the 800m semifinals at the World Championships in Oregon.
Kibet, who earned the under-20 spot courtesy of wildcard, will partner with Briam Kiptum, the winner of Kenya's trials. The duo is expected to sail to the semis.
Ethiopia's Ermias Girma appears to present a threat to the Kenyans. He clocked a hugely impressive 1:44.36 in Lokeren, Belgium, in May and lowered his 1500m best to 3:36.28 later that month.
However, his sole race since then came at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon where he was knocked out in the 800m heats after finishing fourth in 1:49.36.
Away from the East African, Poland's Kacper Lewalski should also have a huge say in the medal shake-up. The 19-year-old was sixth in the world U20 800m final in Nairobi last year and won silver at the European U20 Championships.
He clocked 1:44.84 on home turf in Silesia at the end of last season and this year, he has a best time of 1:45.48.
Women's 1500m will have Kenyan duo of Brenda Chebet and Purity Chepkirui, who are expected to put up a strong fight. Chebet is a 4:05.50 athlete, while Chepkirui is the reigning world U20 champion, who has also run 4:08.08 this year. She also won silver at the African Championships last month.
"I know there is some pressure on me to deliver since I am the defending champion, but I am also ready for the challenge ahead," Chepkirui, a student at Tiloa Secondary School in Nakuru County, said before departing to Cali.
Ethiopia has the two quickest U20 women in the world this year, Birke Haylom and Mebriht Mekonen, who will be hoping to lead the field home in Cali.
Haylom, 16, ran her PB of 4:02.25 at in Nairobi in May while her teammate Mekonen ran her PB of 4:03.29 to finish seventh in Ostrava back in May, before following it up with a 4:03.60 in Montreuil, France. [Additional reporting by World Athletics]