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Focus turns on global meeting

By | February 19th 2011

By Mutwiri Mutuota

Nairobi's Uhuru Gardens will this morning cede their recreation function to lay the battle ground for distance running supremacy during the IAAF Permit/KCB National Cross Country Championships.

A medley of established stars and unheralded runners will cast aside respect to contest for 24 places available for the March 20 IAAF World Cross in Punta Umbria, Spain with an additional ‘16’ consolation slots reserved for those who will bear the country’s flag at the inaugural CAA Africa Cross Country Championships that will run on March 6 in Cape Town, South Africa.

"We have so many athletes in shape meaning these Trials will be among the most intensely competed in recent times. This is a good sign for the country since we will settle for nothing less than the best team to defend our status as the best nation in cross country," Athletics Kenya (AK) general secretary, David Okeyo, told FeverPitch yesterday.

Four races are on the cards namely; junior 6km women, junior 8km men, senior 8km women and the showstopper 12km senior men event.

Marion Steininger, a representative of Pace Sports Management, who have men’s World Cross titleholder, Joseph Ebuya, twice World Cross women senior silver winner, Linet Masai and World women’s 5,000m champion, Vivian Cheruiyot among others in their stable said: "This will be a very important event for our runners since victory at the World Cross will be a huge lift for the season.

"We encourage them to go for major championships to raise their profile."

Calling potential champions and entrants into Team Kenya is arduous given the quality among the over 300 starters who will tussle for available slots, with the first four finishers gaining automatic tickets to Spain, a further two to be decided by wildcard selection and those who finish between positions seven and 20 eligible for Africa Cross places in all categories.

Ebuya, whose return to domestic competition at the Armed Forces championships yielded a lowly 23rd finish and his senior women equivalent,

Emily Chebet have the unenviable task of stamping their authority against killer opposition.

Marathoner Geoffrey Mutai, who has displayed his ability as one of the most potent all round distance running machine with polished victories at the Iten leg of the KCB series and Police championships is the runner tipped for long race glory.

Leonard Komon, the world 10km and 15km record holder who has had five successive World Cross appearances, Matthew Kisorio, a competitor at Edinburgh and Amman World Cross and Hosea Macharinyang who has four World Cross appearances, Vincent Yator, last year’s winner Paul Tanui and Laban Rotich are others in the hunt.

The battle between Berlin champions, Masai and Cheruiyot will be the main sub-plot in the senior women’s race with Lineth Chepkurui (fourth Bydgoszcz), Sylvia Kibet, Priscah Jepleting, Grace Momanyi, Hannah Wanjiru and Peninah Arusei forming the key challengers to the favoured duo.

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