Kenyan Athletes Secure Places for National Cross Country Championships, by Justin Lagat

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This is a column by Justin Lagat, our correspondent in Kenya, on what is happening in Kenya over the next few weeks regarding cross country. Justin Lagat has recently started his website, www.kenyanathlete.com, which we highly recommend. 

Justin sent this piece to us and asked that I post it before Wednesday of this week. We hope you enjoy it. 
Kenyan Athletes Secure Places for National Cross Country Championships, by Justin Lagat

Over the last two weekends, discipline forces in Kenya conducted their championships starting with the administration police who did theirs on 4th January. Kenya Prisons did their regional championships on 10th followed by Kenya Police's national championships on 11th. The Defense Forces', Kenya Prison's national championships and other regional championships will take place across the country in the next few weeks before the national championships/trials for African cross country championships finally happen on the15th of February.

Most of the time, when the Forces' championships take place, new and upcoming athletes take the chance to run in these events as guest runners and some of them who end up in podium positions are always considered for enrolment into the service. This is the reason why the largest number of professional Kenyan runners are usually either in the country's police force or in the military. The demand for sports men and women is always high there. Once in the forces, promotions also happen whenever an athlete performs exemplarily at an international outing. Some of the athletes who have risen through many ranks due to their performances include Paul Tergat, Catherine Dereva and Abel Kirui, among others.

The Kenya Police's national championships are the most followed championships in the country as this is where the best Kenyan athletes belong. Trying to make a list of them all is just arduous because they are so many. The top three during their cross country championships recently were; Geoffrey Kipsang, Geoffrey Mutai and Augustine Choge for men and Florence Kiplagat, Irene Chelagat and Edith Chelimo for women.

The Defense forces will do their national championships this week on the 16th in Nairobi. There are some of the best athletes here too, but they cannot be compared to the ones in the police force. Many believe that the reason why the armed forces are not as impressive as the police when it comes to sports is because the sports people in the military are not given enough ample time to go out and train in their own destinations of choice.
Kenya Prisons will be the last ones to do their championships on 25th January. Athletes to watch here include Timothy Kiptoo and Wilson Kiprop.

Other athletes who are neither in the Police nor in the Army will begin their county championships this weekend on 18th at various venues countrywide. Uasin Gishu County where I am in, will conduct theirs at Eldoret Polytechnic while Nandi County will conduct theirs at Mosoriot Teachers College, just to name but two of the 47 counties in Kenya. Regional Championships, where a number of Counties will compete against each other and produce a team that will take them to the nationals to compete against other regions, will happen on the 1st of February.

On the 15th of February, the national championships that will as well act as Kenya's trials to select the team to represent the country in the African cross country championships in Kampala, Uganda will take place. Athletes who make the teams in their various regions, or forces will be competing here to earn points for their teams. The national team will then be picked automatically from the first six athletes to cross the finish line from each category and a national camp, which has always been at Kigari, Embu in the past years, will be established for the team to train for about a month before leaving the country for the continental competition that will be staged on the 16th of March.

Kenya and Ethiopia have always dominated the world cross country championships for some years now and the competition in Kampala will most likely be a duel between the two countries, but Ugandans have also been proving to be a force to be reckoned with, of late. Given that some of the best Kenyan athletes are not giving a high priority to this event means anything could happen there.

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