Optimistic Africa Cross team leaves for Yaounde
Team Kenya for the 4th CAA Africa Cross Country Championships left for Cameroon in high spirits ahead of Saturday’s showdown where the country is out to maintain its stranglehold of the overall title.
Shorn of the kind of imposing quality similar to last year’s squad for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, China, the team of 24 runners and nine officials is nevertheless optimistic they will uphold their nation’s revered status as a distance running powerhouse.
“The team is well prepared and is determined to win all gold medals in Yaoundé. Although Ethiopia might challenge us, I’m hopeful my team will make Kenya proud,” team captain, Cleophas Rotich, who is aiming to succeed Leonard Barsoton as the senior men African champion, asserted.
“From the training we have been doing, everyone is eager to win. What we are targeting because Kenya are the champions is to come back with the title. We are going to work as a team and try to come back with the medals. The morale is good,” the skipper who will be making his Team Kenya debut in cross country after finishing eighth at the nationals, added.
“We are well prepared and Kenya has been winning in the past editions. We will come back with victory. We do not fear the challenge from Ethiopians and Eritreans,” women’s captain Pauline Kavekye, who was in the 2013 World Cross squad in Bydgoszcz, Poland as a junior, added ahead of her maiden outing as a senior.
They were speaking at the crack of dawn on Wednesday when the team assembled for departure to Cameroon at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport with the athletes in high spirits despite the early morning chill.
The squad arrived from their St. Mark’s Teachers Training College, Kigari training base in Embu on Tuesday and were hosted to a lavish farewell dinner by Athletics Kenya (AK) later in the evening before their journey to Cameroon.
Barsoton, who finished third in the senior men 10km race at the February IAAF Permit/AK National Championships to qualify for Yaoundé, opted out of a title defence to focus on preparing to fight for a place in the men 10,000m team for the Rio 2016 Olympics in the summer.
The top two finishers in that race, Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor and Bedan Karoki- the World Cross gold and silver winners last year- are representing their country at the forthcoming IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff.
World women 3000m steeplechase champion, Hyvin Kiyeng and experienced Cross campaigner, Janet Kisa who was in China were the notable athletes who withdrew from the women’s 10km squad.
However, Alice Aprot who will be making history as the first athlete to compete in all the four editions of the Africa Cross will lead the medal charge in the senior women’s having won bronze two years ago in Uganda.
Kenya held on to the overall crown for the third straight edition in Kampala with Barsoton and Faith Chepng’etich Kipyegon taking the individual senior titles.
This will be the first multi-nation event to run under the new IAAF format that saw the senior men event reduced to 10km from 12km and the senior women increased from 8km to 10km.
The junior 8km men and 6km women distances remain the same with the team under the leadership of former AK public relations officer, Peter Angwenyi as Team Manager expected back home on Sunday at 4pm local time (+3GMT).
Men 10: Charles Mneria, Phillip Lagat, James Rungari, Geoffrey Koech, Cleophas Rotich, Phillip Rono; Women 10km: Alice Aprot, Beatrice Mutai, Sheila Chepkirui, Daisy Jepkemei, Pauline Korikwiang, Nancy Nzisa: Men 8km: Nixon Kiplagat, Andrew Lorot, Isaac Kipsang, Willy Kwemoi, Ronald Kiprotich, Alfred Ngeno, Anthony Kiptoo; Women 6km: Sandra Felis Chebet, Miriam Cherop, Lucy Cheruiyot, Gloriah Kite, Winfred Mbithe, Lilian Kasait
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