Nairobi, Kenya — World Cross champions, Vivian Cheruiyot, Geoffrey Kipsang and Faith Chepng'etich will headline Saturday's KCB/AK National Cross Country Championships at Nairobi's Uhuru Gardens.
The event that is shorn of the added incentive in competing at the global event this year has nonetheless pooled star studded fields across the four races on the cards with Athletics Kenya (AK) set to select the team that will compete at the March Africa Cross Country Championships in South Africa.
"All the logistical programmes are complete and teams are expected to arrive in Nairobi from Thursday. We have already received entries and invited foreign athletes to the event.
"This was supposed to be an IAAF Permit Meeting and we are still accessing the quality of the athletes since most of them entering to compete from other countries are those training in Kenya and we will decide whether to give it this status," AK boss, Isaiah Kiplagat told reporters on Wednesday.
At the same time, the event received Sh5.24m ($63,903) from Kenya Commercial Bank as the firm announced a three year extension to their backing of the domestic cross country competitions.
Defending senior team competition champions Kenya Police have entered what on paper is the strongest line-up fronted by Cheruiyot, a recent recipient of the Laureus Female Sportsperson of the Year award.
The double world champion won the World Cross title last year will feature alongside Police team mates, Linet Masai, the silver winner in Punta Umbria, Mercy Cherono, the 2010 World Cross junior champion, Sylvia Kibet, the Daegu 5,000m silver winner and Margaret Muriuki who finished sixth at the Bydgoszcz World Cross in the women's senior 8km race.
Their men's long race squad features new recruit, Kipsang who won the junior World Cross title last year, defending champion, Geoffrey Mutai, the Boston and New York Marathon champion, World junior titleholder, Isaiah Kiplangat, Matthew Kisorio who placed fourth in Punta Umbria, Philemon Limo and Moses Masai.
Archrivals Kenya Defence Forces have the timeless Mark Kiptoo who captained Kenya to the Edinburgh World Cross, the 2007 World Cross silver winner, Vincent Kiprop, William Chebon, Michael Chege and John Chepkwony, the 2009 World Junior champion in the men's 12km run.
Sharon Cherop, the Worlds marathon bronze winner, former world junior champion, Veronica Nyaruai, Doris Changeiywo, Monicah Otwori, Gladys Chemweno and Jemimah Jelagat comprise the Defence Forces artillery in the corresponding women senior 8km race.
Africa Cross senior men champion, John Mwangangi will spearhead the Kenya Prisons squad with World women's 10,000m bronze winner, Priscah Jepleting the star act in the Administration Police team.
World Cross junior women titleholder, Chepng'etich is listed in the South Rift team alongside Caroline Chepkoech, her Africa Cross equivalent and younger sister to Cherono. World junior champion, William Malel who scooped the KCB/AK series jackpot in the junior men category headlines the South Rift team in the same race.
"The top six finishers in each race will be considered for the Africa Cross although we are worried that our top runners may decide to skip the event to prepare for the Olympics and as you well know, we cannot force them.
"Only ten percent of the African countries who participate in the World Cross will honour the event with most in East Africa and a few in the Southern Africa and we shall discuss the matter at the General Assembly of the Africa Athletics in June since it is an impediment for cross country development in the continental," Kiplagat explained.
Besides starring at the Punta Umbria World Cross, Kenya swept all the honours at last year's Africa Cross Country.