Former champions Alice Aprot and Celliphine Chespol are back to wrestle the title from Loice Chemining when the Kenya Prisons Service Cross Country Championships go down Saturday at the Prisons Staff Training College (KPTC) in Ruiru.
Aprot, who claimed a hat-trick of titles after winning from 2015 to 2017, said she is back in training after taking a maternity break, while it's hoped that the 2018 and 2019 champion Chespol will have recovered from an ailment.
"I am glad to be back even though my body isn't in great shape, but I hope to gain top form in the coming month," said Aprot, the 2017 World Cross Country silver medalist. Aprot also holds the 2016 national and Africa cross country titles.
Kenya Prisons coach Gideon Chirchir said Chespol, the 2016 and 2018 World Under-20 3,000m Steeplechase champion, was down with an ailment, but hopes she will have recovered to launch her season in style on Saturday.
"We are expecting athletes from 10 regions to contest in the men and women's 10km and mixed relay races. Competition will be stiff noting that most athletes were inactive last year owing to coronavirus lockdown," said Chirchir.
Last year before the Covid-19 struck, Chemining cashed in on the absence of Aprot and Chespol to win her maiden prisons cross country title, beating PSTC teammate Sandra Chebet in a sprint finish in a time of 35:11.92.
Chebet clocked 35:12.65, while 2017 World Cross Country bronze medallist Lilian Kasait finished third in a time of 35:22.18. Chebet and Kasait will be aiming for their maiden victories at the prisons event.
Rosemary Wanjiru, who finished fourth in the 10,000m at 2019 Doha World Championships, will put her best foot forward too in the women's 10km race alongside Abigale Chelangat among others.
Charles Mneria will be going for a hat-trick against an elite dotted field, having retained his title last year after braving an injury in a time of 30:47.50.
Mneria, 24, who represented Kenya in the 5,000m race at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, defeated Emmanuel Ngatuny from Prisons Headquarters to second place in 31:01.72.
Mneria, who is fresh from winning the Athletics Kenya Cross Country Series in Mosoriot and Ngatuny, will battle Prisons' 10,000m champion Peter Emase in the men's 10km race.
The race also has the likes of 2012 London Olympics 5,000m bronze medallist, Thomas Longosiwa, Kenya's representative in 5,000m at the 2017 London World Championships, Mangata Ndiwa and former Africa 10,000m silver medallist Wilfred Kimitei.
World 1,500m champion Timothy Cheruiyot will gauge his strength in the men's 10km battle alongside 2010 Commonwealth Games 1,500m champion Silas Kiplagat.