KAMPALA, Kenya women’s team captain and Olympic 1500m champion Faith Chepngetich believes teamwork will be key to success as they brace for a grueling 10km senior race of the World Cross Country Championships on Sunday in Kampala, Uganda.
Chepngetich will lead Kenya’s charges alongside 2015 World Cross Country Championships champion Agnes Tirop and 2016 Olympic 3000m s/c silver medalist Hyvin Kiyeng in the chase for medals. Lilian Kasait who won the 2013 IAAF World Junior Championship over 3000 metres, finished second in the national trials and is also part of the women’s team.
Alice Aprot and Irene Cheptai complete the team. Cheptai will be making her fourth appearance. She finished second in the 2008 edition as a junior athlete.
“We have been training hard and we have a strong team. Yes everyone will want to win it but we have agreed to work as a team and push each other because we expect a lot of competition especially from the Ethiopian team,” Chepngetich said.
At individual level, the former two time junior champion is still very much about passionate running in the cross country and will use it as build up for future track ambitions.
“I ran 1500 metres at the Olympics and I will run 10 kilometers tomorrow with the two races being of different nature. I love cross country and that is why I am here in Kampala. I have the endurance that I believe will help me.”
She lauded the track as ideal for her given that she had previously run on it during the 2014 Africa Cross Country Championships. Kenya will face stiff competition from traditional rivals Ethiopia. They have 2015 silver medalist Senbere Teferi in their ranks. Veteran Belaynesh Oljira, is also a threat given that she has featured in the previous four editions (2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015).
In the men’s senior race, overall team captain Leonard Komon is optimistic that Kenya will retain the title won by Geoffrey Kamworor in the 2015 edition. Also in the mix is Kenyan national champion Leonard Barsoton who stunned Kamworor to take first slot.
“I believe that we are ready to bring the gold and possibly other medals back home. We have a lot of good athletes in the team who all fancy their chances. I think a solid start in the first five kilometers will give me an edge and that is what I have in my strategy,” said the confident Komon.
The world record holder for 10 and 15 km road races will be competing in his sixth cross country competition. Others in the team are Mark Bett, Nicholas Kosimbei and Vincent Rono.
Current 1500m Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop will make his return to cross country to compete in the mixed relay 10 years after making his debut. Kiprop cited IAAF’s decision to introduce mixed relays of 2km per lap as a motivation for the middle distance runner’s comeback. “I thank the IAAF for introducing this race category because it has provided the best opportunity for me as middle distance athlete,”
Kiprop refused to be drawn into talk of Kenya being favourites and insists that the race is wide open given as it is a new experience for all the runners. However, he added that the team will do their best to secure the first gold medal in this category. The team also has Benard Korir, Winfred Nzisa and Beatrice Chepkoech.
Kenya’s full team
Men Senior (10km) Leonard Barsoton, Mark Bett , Geoffrey Kamworor, Vincent Rono, Leonard Komon, Nicholas Kosimbei
Women Senior (10km) Irene Cheptai, Lilian Kasait, Faith Chepngetich , Alice Aprot, Agnes Tirop , Hyvin Kiyeng
U-20 (8km) Richard Kimunyan, Meshack Munguti, Wesley Ledama, Edwin Bett, Amos Kirui, Ronald Kirui
U-20 (6 km) Sandra Felis Chebet, Cellphine Chepteek , Sheila Chelangat,.Emmaculate Chepkurui , Joyline Cherotich , Helen Ekalale
Mixed Relays: Asbel Kiprop, Benard Korir, Winfred Nzisa, Beatrice Chepkoech.
Schedule –Kenyan time
Mixed relay (2 p.m.), U-20 Women (2.30 p.m.), U-20 Men (3.10 p.m.), 10km Senior Women (3.55 p.m.), 10 km Senior Men (4.55 p.m.)