Kenya named a provisional squad of 28 for the 2013 IAAF World Cross as the hotly contested National Cross Country Championships went down on Saturday in Nairobi to end the much anticipated showdown to an anti climax.
Athletics Kenya selectors included four wildcard entries, after ditching that criteria after the furore that greeted the 2008 World Cross team, to the 24 who earned their slots during four riveting races at the Uhuru Gardens course.
Among those who made the initial squad are four previous gold medallists at the World Cross namely Emily Chebet, Mercy Cherono, Faith Chepng'etich and Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor.
Chepng'etich and Chebet won their places outright while outside selection was awarded to Cherono who was 48th in the senior women race as well as Kipsang who won the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon on Friday thereby ruling him out of the domestic championships.
Coaches, led by Sammy Rono, will rule on which three athletes to drop from the provisional squad ahead of the team's March 20 departure to Poland.
Police officer, Philemon Rono, 22, finally cracked the national team on his fourth year of trying when his controlled running landed him a surprise win in the men senior 12km show-stopper.
Rono won in 35:21.5 to shade hard chasing Timothy Kiptoo (35:25.0) who claimed second place and a slot in the World Cross reckoning following his Africa Cross outing last year as Geoffrey Kirui (35:26.4) came third to complete an unfamiliar podium line-up.
Fourth placed Hosea Mwok Macharinyang (35:32.0) nailed one of the automatic slots for selection and he is in line for an eighth World Cross appearance which is a national record.
Having made his debut in Fukuoka 2006, Macharinyang has only missed the 2009 edition in Amman due to a recurrent injury since.
"This time, I want to get a medal so that I can enter among the great World Cross runners," the athlete who is yet to medal at the event expressed in reference to the major blot in his otherwise magnificent CV at the now biennial global showpiece.
Among the top names that perished under the heat and slightly muddy conditions that faced the runners at Nairobi's Uhuru Gardens are 2010 World Cross champion, Joseph Ebuya and 2008 silver winner, Leonard Komon who did not finish as well as 2010 junior titleholder, John Mwangangi (14th) and 2011 silver winner, Paul Tanui (25th).
Geoffrey Kipsang and the bronze winner from Punta Umbria, Spain, Vincent Chepkok were granted outside selection in the men's long race with the latter coming eighth in the finishing order of the day.
Another Police runner, Margaret Wangare, sealed the institution's double by clinching the senior women 8km event when she outsmarted her challengers with measured tactical running through the laps before she opened up the decisive finishing burst some 600m to the tape.
Wangare who was sixth in Bydgoszcz (2010) and eighth in Edinburgh (2008) compensated for her institution's loss of reigning World Cross titleholder, Vivian Cheruiyot and her bridesmaid, Linet Masai who did not feature owing to preparations for the defense of two world track titles and injury respectively.
"I dedicate this to my sick mother who is in hospital. My training was disrupted when she fell ill and now, I'm pleased her prayers worked and I know she will recover faster," Wangare who timed 26:46.3 for victory told reporters as she claimed she believed she was the 'best of the best winners'.
"Now winning gold for my country is what remains and I will work hard with my teammates to ensure we repeat what we did in Poland in 2010 when we won the individual and team titles," she declared.
Emily Chebet, who missed a title defense in Punta Umbria injured sealed her emphatic comeback to top shape by finishing fourth despite being badly spiked in the dash for honours and she is set to an emotional return to the city she made her name three years ago.
"Just like then, I finished fourth here and my prayer is that I will be in good form to win back the title I lost. The race was tough, there was a lot of trampling in the field and I was out of energy at the end but I'm pleased I made it.
"The injury I suffered here today is not serious enough to stop me from training hard and this season, I've felt the form I had in 2010 return," the 26 year-old Administration Police officer who won the third medal at the Africa Cross last year proclaimed.
Cherono, the junior champion in Poland who made her Olympics debut in London last summer was named as the wildcard in the women's race.
"She has been consistent in the IAAF Permit series overseas and today, something must have happened to her. Our work is to select athletes we know can go and win and Mercy is one of them," AK secretary, David Okeyo, justified her inclusion in the provisional line-up.
The junior 8km men's race produced a shock winner in the frame of 18-year-old Ronald Kwemoi (23:10.2) who was forced out of school due to lack of fees in 2009.
Kwemoi, who hails from Mount Elgon, was at first too stunned to speak but after gathering strength, he told of his delight to make his national team debut at the first time of asking.
"I had trained hard for this and I knew I was in good shape but this race was tough. I will now work harder since I do not want to fail Kenya and I'm happy to make the team for the first time," the athlete who shifted to Iten added.
Japan based Leonard Barsoton (23:16.1) and Moses Mukono (23:20.7), a training partner of world record holder, David Rudisha, completed the podium.
There was no wildcard granted in this category.
In the first race of the day, the junior women 6km, Chepng'etich, who won the world crown in Punta Umbria two years ago, deployed a searing last kilometre burst to dismiss four challengers for the honours including younger sister, Caroline Chepkoech.
"The hard part now is defending my title but I'm happy my sister will be joining me in the team. We trained together and so hard for this race," the runner who is also the World Junior 1500m titleholder said after breasting the tape in 19:53.8.
Agnes Chebet (20:02.3) and Rosefline Chepng'etich (20:04.1) completed the podium with the winner's sibling Chepkoech (20:07.7) nailing fourth ahead of Sheila Chepng'etich 20:17.0.
World Junior steeplechase champion, Mercy Chebwogen was handed outside selection.
Junior women: Faith Chepng'etich, Agnes Chebet, Rosefline Chepng'etich, Caroline Chepkoech, Sheila Chepng'etich, Pauline Kaveke, Mercy Chebwogen: Junior men: Ronald Kwemoi, Leonard Barsoton, Moses Mukono, Emanuel Bett, Bernard Kipkemoi, Conseslus Kipruto: Senior women: Margaret Wangari, Irene Cheptai, Janet Kisa, Emily Chebet, Beatrice Chepkemoi, Viola Kibiwott, Mercy Cherono: Senior men: Philemon Rono, Timothy Kiptoo, Geoffrey Kirui, Hosea Mwok Macharinyang, Jonathan Muia, Japheth Korir, Geoffrey Kipsang, Vincent Chepkok
Senior men 12km
1. Philemon Rono 35:21.5
2. Timothy Kiptoo 35:25.0
3. Geoffrey Kirui 35:26.4
4 .Hosea Mwok 35:32.0
5. Jonathan Muia 35:32.2
6. Japheth Korir 35:36.4
Senior women 8km
1. Margaret Wangare 26:46.3
2. Irene Cheptai 26:48.4
3. Janet Kisa 26:50.2
4. Emily Chebet 26:52.1
5. Beatrice Chepkemoi 26:56.3
6. Viola Kibiwott 27:03.5
Junior men 8km
1. Kwemoi Ronald 23:10.2
2. Leonard Barsoton 23:16.1
3. Moses Mukono 23:20.7
4. Emmanuel Bett 23:22.0
5. Bernard Kipkemoi 23:32.5
6. Conseslus Kipruto 23:39.2
Junior women 6km
1. Faith Chepng'etich 19:53.8
2. Agnes Chebet 20:02.3
3. Rosefline Chepng'etich 20:04.1
4. Caroline Chepkoech 20:07.7
5. Sheila Chepng'etich 20:17.0