Kenyans to watch in the shape up to the World Cross Country Championships, by Justin Lagat

Wilson Kiprop and Bedan Karoki, Nike Discovery Cross country Eldoret from January 2014, photo by Justin Lagat.

Justin Lagat wrote this piece on the upcoming Kenyan teams for the upcoming 2015 World Cross Country Championships. 
Kenyans to watch in the shape up to the World Cross Country Championships, by Justin Lagat

Next year's world cross country championships will certainly be competitive and interesting to watch. The first 15 athletes to cross the finish line will get automatic qualifications to participate in the 10,000m event at the world championships later in the year, and with the fact that there are few 10,000m races these days where athletes can get to register the qualification time of 27:45, most of them will most likely try their luck with the cross country championships.

There are marathon runners also who like to use the cross country event to hone their endurance speed. Best examples here are Geoffrey Mutai and Florence Kiplagat. Mutai was fifth at the world cross country championships in 2011 before going ahead to run a time of 2:03.02 at the Boston marathon in the same season. He is aware that his participation in the cross country that year helped him and will be seeking to make the team to represent Kenya again next year.

Florence Kiplagat also won a number of cross country events early this year that included the Kenya police championships before proceeding to break the world half marathon record and finishing second at the London marathon.
Marathon world record holder, Dennis Kimetto, is also among the runners who have expressed their interest in trying to make the team to represent the country in Guiyang, China.

However, the real contenders who will be going for the world cross country championship senior title for the sake of it, on the men's side, will include Bedan Karoki, Japhet Korir, Leornard Barsoton, Wilson Kiprop, Geoffrey Kamworor and Hosea Mwok, among others. On the women's side there are Faith Chepng'etich, Emily Chebet, Alice Aprot, Vivian Cheruiyot and Agnes Jebet, among others. Japhet Korir is the defending champion.

Bedan Karoki won the Kenyan national cross country trials comfortably early this year, but opted out of the team to the African championships because he had other more ambitious plans for himself. This time round, there are more incentives for him to represent the country and that will include being crowned a world champion, a good prize money and getting the automatic qualification to run again in the 10,000m at the world championships.

Leornard Barsoton who had finished second behind Karoki at the nationals became the African champion in Kampala. He was a silver medalist at the 2013 world cross country championships in the junior race. Being an African champion in an event that is often dominated by Africans will mean that the chances for Barsoton to clinch the world title are high. He knows that.
Then again, a few days before going to win the national trials, Wilson Kiprop had defeated Karoki during the Nike Discovery Cross Country event in Eldoret, in a race that will remain fresh in the memories of spectators who watched it. It will just be interesting if the two will get to duel again in another cross country event, preferably at the national trials. It is only worrying that the RAK half marathon will happen a day before the national trials and there is a possibility of runners choosing between it and the trials.

Reigning world half marathon champion, Geoffrey Kamworor who won the junior cross country title in 2011 has also, in a Facebook comment, expressed his desire to win the senior title as well next year.

Faith Chepng'etich and Agnes Jebet finished first and second in the junior women race in Bydcoszcz, Poland in 2013. The two just moved up to the senior category and there is a possibility that the two can just finish in the same positions again in the senior category next year. Faith won the national trials and went ahead to win the African championships in Kampala. Agnes did exactly the same in the junior race, but she will be in the senior category too next year and has started winning some competitive senior races recently in preparation for that.

Emily Chebet will be seeking to defend her senior title, and Vivian Cheruiyot who had failed in 2013 to defend her 2011 title, having gone on a maternity break, will also be back.

Athletics Kenya will conduct the national trials on 14th February in order to name the team to the world cross country championships. Meanwhile, there are a number of local and IAAF permit races leading up to that in which it will be interesting to watch these athletes run and start making predictions.

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