Why this year’s National X-Country Championship is different


Why this year’s National X-Country Championship is different
(FILE)Athletes compete in the 10000m men finals during the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games athletics trials at Kasarani stadium in Nairobi on February 17, 2018. Photo/Stafford Ondego/Sportpicha

In Summary

  • With the clock ticking towards the eargerly awaited National Cross Country Championships slated for Eldoret Sports Club on February 23, we take a look at how this year’s championship is unique compared to the previous editions
  • It is also the first time since 1991 that the championships has been moved out of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, with the last championship being held at Kabarak, also in the former Rift Valley Province.
  • Already Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), National Police Service and Kenya Prisons Service have selected their teams for the trials.

With the clock ticking towards the eagerly awaited National Cross Country Championships slated for Eldoret Sports Club on February 23, we take a look at how this year’s championship is unique compared to the previous editions.

First, it is worth noting that this year’s championships will be held out of Nairobi for the first time since the inception of Athletics Kenya (AK) in 2002, in place of the defunct Kenya Amateur Athletics Association (KAAA).

Similarly, it is also the first time since 1991 that the championships has been moved out of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, with the last championship being held at Kabarak, also in the former Rift Valley Province.

The championships will once again present athletics faithful in the region to witness world beaters as they face off with tickets to represent Kenya at the World Championships at stake.

According to AK Central Rift chairman Abraham Mutai, the aim is to take the championship to grassroots, beginning with this year’s edition.

“We in North Rift region are happy to be hosting this national event. Uasin Gishu is the first county and thereafter the next host will be announced after the competition,” said Mutai.

According to AK executive member Barnabas Korir, the athletics body has opted to award interested counties on a competitive basis.

“North Rift counties united and presented a strong bid hence they received the hosting rights. The next host will be awarded also on competitive basis for the bidders,” said Korir.

Change in timings

Another major change in this year’s edition is that unlike in the previous editions where the championships were held early morning, this year’s edition will be held in the afternoon.

According to Mutai, who is also the chair of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC), the competition has been shifted to afternoon so as to match the international standards and also to attract fans from the athletics-mad region.

“We have changed our program so that we align with international standards where events are being held in the afternoon thus we will be starting our races from 2pm.  The official program will however start early morning with entertainments but the races will be afternoon,” noted Mutai.

National Olympic Committee of Kenya (Nock) Treasure Karis Mwangi (L), Chef de Mission of Kenya’s team to the Commonwealth Games Barnabas Korir (C) and Sports Commissioner Maurice Kamau address the media during the Gold Coast commonwealth games press briefing at the Nock headquarters in Nairobi on February 20, 2018. Photo/Stafford/Citizen

The course to be used in Denmark  at the World Championship hilly unlike the one at the  Eldoret Sports Club, Mutai assured that the course will provide enough challenge for the athletes.

“We have a two-kilometre loop where we have enough obstacles to challenge the athletes. We have already finished working on that and the course is ready,” he reckoned.

‘City of Champions’ comes to life again

In 2016 , business literally came to a standstill in Eldoret town when the trials for Rio Olympics were held at the legendary Kipchoge Keino Stadium, the facility filling to the rafters.

“We are expecting a lot of fans to come and witness the event being that the event will be held in the  afternoon. We know a majority of residents here are farmers thus they have time to attend to their chores in the morning then in the afternoon they can come over,” said Mutai.

The competition will be used to select a team to represent Kenya at the World Cross Country Championships set for Aarhus, Denmark in March 30.

Already Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), National Police Service and Kenya Prisons Service have selected their teams for the trials.

Majority of the counties have also picked their teams for the regional championships slated for February 9 from where they’ll  select their teams for the national championships.

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Story By Gilbert Kiprotich
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