National honours, Bydgoszcz tickets up for grabs at Kenya Cross country

By evelyn watta
Feb 14, 2021

Uhuru Gardens will be the setting for the crème de la crème of Kenyan runners this Saturday February 16, as they battle for tickets to the World cross-country championship in Bydgoszcz, Poland.

The potholed and partly sodden course though was not the best choice for Athletics Kenya, AK as they seek to fill the gaping hole in the women’s line-up with an automatic selection of the top four finishers across line during the trials cum IAAF permit meeting.

2011 champion Vivian Cheruiyot-focussed on her double track defence in Moscow- and injured Linet Masai a former winner in the women’s 8km race (2007), are both out of the race leaving the onus on former junior champion Mercy Cherono, Gladys Cherono the Armed forces champion and double gold winner at the Africa track event in Benin.

“We can still achieve our goal of winning the eight gold medals. It is not easy to be a champion repeatedly in Kenya. We will miss them (Cheruiyot and Masai) but am sure we will find able replacements,” said AK Secretary General David Okeyo in reference to the duo whose last contest for Punta Umbria tickets was a lively race.

The alternative venue Ngong Race course is unavailable, which forced AK to stick to the tricky uneven course that proved quite challenging during the Prisons trials last month.

Residential training starts February 20 

The first four runners across the line will book their automatic tickets to Bydgoszcz, the polish capital of Athletics, a venue Kenyans hopes will bring forth yet more glory, after the sweep of medals in 2011.

“We have had a briefing with the coaches to select the cream and properly,” added Okeyo. The coaches will pick two athletes in each category to join the top two finishers for the traditional residential camp in Kigari, Embu.

“The ones selected will have a three day break after the trials and report for camp as from 20th.”

IAAF befittingly picked five times World cross country winner Paul Tergat as its event ambassador,one of the three Kenyans to have won the senior men’s title, with John Ngugi also clinching it five times before him and Joseph Ebuya grabbing the title in 2011.

“The narrow hill makes it hard and it’s going to be a real fight between the runners,” noted Tergat after a recent tour of the course in Bydgoszcz ahead of the March 24 race.

“The cold and snow could also make it more exciting for the spectators and for the participants.”

Runners from six countries totalling 13 will also race alongside the Kenyans this weekend looking to boost and improve their cross-country performance with the world’s best.

AK seeks to employ professional managers

The trials with a confirmed participation list of about 140 athletes will once again have Kenya Commercial Bank as the title sponsor.

“Our investment in Athletics has continued to increase significantly over the years and today stands at 84.6 million,” noted KCB’s chief Executive Joshua Oigaraa briefing in Nairobi on Thursday.

AK president Isaiah Kiplagat took the time to announce the Associations plans to streamline its operations. Besides the already advertised position for the CEO, AK hopes to bring on board different experts to serve at Riadha House.

“Once we get the CEO, we will get the technical director, Communications Director and even someone to manage our finance. We want to be the first Association to professionalise our operations and management,”said Kiplagat.