The 2016 Cross Country season began in Kenya in late October. This is a column previewing the season from Justin Lagat. Who will be the great cross country runners to come out of Kenya to race in Uganda at World Cross in 2017?
The start of Senior men’s race at Ndalat Gaa cross country, photo by Justin Lagat
As the cross country season begins here in Kenya, it will be interesting to see what unfolds in a number of events that are going to happen ahead of Kenya’s national trials in February before the climax happens at the world cross country championships in Kampala, Uganda in March next year.
The Athletics Kenya’s series of cross country events are yet to begin from next month, but so far, a number of other events have taken place including the Ndalat Gaa and Moi University cross country. The University of Eldoret cross country happens this weekend (22nd October) while the Tuskys Wareng cross country happens next month (26th November).
Alice Aprot, the reigning African champion showed that she will be one athlete to watch out for after she took to the lead from the 2km mark to dominate the Ndalat Gaa senior women’s race. Given that the East Africans often dominate the world cross event, then being an African champion could as well mean being the best in the world.
Agnes Tirop, the 2015 world champion in the senior women’s race was absent at the Ndalat race, which would have made it an interesting race to see her race against Aprot and start making predictions on how the world cross country race will unfold in Kampala.
It was Irene Cheptai, 7th at the world cross country championships last year, who followed Aprot closely throughout the race to finish second. Cheptai missed to make the 10,000m women’s team to Rio after dropping out of the race with a few laps to go as they fought for second place with Betsy Saina during the Kenyan Olympic trials at Eldoret’s Kipchoge Stadium. She definitely stands a better chance of making the Kenyan team for the world cross country championships.
Faith Kipyegon won the African cross country championships in the same venue in 2014. Although she was just among spectators during the Ndalat Gaa event, there is a possibility she will want to run on the same course again and try to win it again now that it will be a world event.
Vivian Cheruiyot is now back on top again. It doesn’t matter if she wishes to remain on track or move to the marathons. Cheruiyot is certain to try and win another world title in the senior women’s cross country race and is surely another athlete to watch out for in the upcoming cross country races.
Abraham Kiptum won the senior men’s race at the Ndalat Gaa race as most of the big names missed to turn up. He could be a new name to watch out for in the races to come. Joseph Ebuya, the 2010 world cross country took part in the race, but had to drop out. He intends to make the Kenyan team with her sister, Alice Aprot.
Leornard Barsoton won the senior men’s race on the same course in 2014 to become the African champion. He will want to turn the African title to a world title this time round now that he understands how it feels to run and win a cross country race in Kampala.
In the races to come, Kenyan fans will be interested in watching Geoffrey Kamworor, the world reigning champion; James Rungaru, the reigning African champion and Bedan Karoki, the world silver medalist, among others.