World champions Geoffrey Kamworor and Agnes Tirop will lead Kenya to the IAAF World Cross Country Championships next month in Kampala after coming through unscathed at Saturday’s national championships at Nairobi’s Uhuru Gardens.
The duo made it to the team by finishing in qualifying positions even though they didn’t claim victories at the Lotto National Cross Country Championships.
Kamworor, who was the defending champion, had to contend with third place, bowing down to Kenya Police Service teammates Leonard Barsoton, who claimed his maiden victory on his fourth attempt, and Bedan Karoki, who came in second.
Barsoton and Kamworor will spearhead thee men’s 10-kilometre race assault at the Kololo Grounds in Kampala, but Karoki has opted out, giving his chance to another athlete.
The Japan-based Karoki said he has decided to focus on his marathon debut in London on April 23 this year.
Tirop, also from Kenya Police Service, just sneaked into the team, having finished fifth in the women’s 10km race where teammate Irene Cheptai destroyed the rich field that also had defending champion Alice Aprot who is also the Africa Cross Country Championships title holder and Olympic 1,500 metres champion Faith Chepng’etich.
Kamworor and Tirop claimed victories during the 2015 World Cross Country Championships held in Guiyang, China, with Tirop becoming the youngest winner in the senior women’s race at 19.
“It would have been good to have retained the title but I’m not disappointed since I only started training late December having recovered from pneumonia and a dislocated left arm,” said Kamworor adding that he will have regained full shape in time for his title defence.
Kamworor, the 2016 World Half Marathon Championships gold medallist, finished in 29 minutes and 03.4 seconds behind winner Barsaton, who finally cracked the victory code on his fourth attempt in 28:56.3.
Karoki settled for second in 29:02.3.
Barsaton, the 2013 World Cross Country Championships junior silver medallist, will be making a return to the familiar Kampala course where he won the 2014 Africa Cross Country Championships title, his maiden senior gong, having just ascend from junior ranks.
Also making a grand return to the team is the 2008 World Cross Country Championships senior men’s silver medallist Leonard Komon, who claimed fifth position in 29:08.8 behind fifth-placed Vincent Rono (29:06.3), who is making his debut for Kenya.
Leonard Lagat was sixth to claim the last place in Team Kenya.
Nicholas Kosimbei, who finished seventh, could just make the team to fill in Karoki’s place but Athletics Kenya are yet to decided awaiting an official communication from Karoki.
Komon, who won junior silver medal at the 2006, brings to the team his vast cross country experience, having finished fourth in junior race at the 2007 Mombasa World Cross Country Championships before posting similar positions in senior men’s race at the 2008 championships in Amman, Jordan, and 2010 in Bydgoszcz, Poland, respectively.
Komon, who hails from Mount Elgon and Asbel Kiprop, are the only serving members of the 2007 Mombasa team heading to Kampala.
Kiprop, who will lead the Mixed Relays team won the junior race in 2007 Mombasa where Komon, 29, settled fourth.
Interestingly, Komon holds the 10km and 15km road races world records of 26:44 and 41:13 minutes respectively. It will be Tirop’s second world appearance, having won junior silver medal at the 2013 Bydgoszcz championships before ascending to senior ranks in style with victory in Guiyang two years ago.
Tirop, who won 5,000m bronze medals at the 2012 Barcelona and 2014 Eugene World Junior Championships, teams up with Lilian Kasait, the 2013 World Youth 3,000m champion, who finished second on Saturday.
Both Chepng’etich and Aprot return to Kampala where they won gold and bronze for respectively in senior women’s race during the 2014 Africa Cross. World 3,000m steeplechase champion Hyvin Kiyeng finished sixth to seal the last place in the team.
Meanwhile, three times World 1,500m champion Asbel Kiprop will be making a return to World Cross Country Championships after a decade when he leads Kenya’s mixed relays team for the March 26 Kampala championships.
Kiprop will team up with Olympic and World Indoor 800m bronze medallist Margaret Nyairera, who anchored Kenya Prisons team to third place finish at the Nationals.
Also in the team are the 2015 World 1,500m Beatrice Chepkoech, who finished fourth in 3,000m steeplechase at Rio Olympic Games and Bernard Kipkorir from Kenya Defence Forces.
Kiprop said moving to Kigari, Embu, for the Team Kenya camp will be nostalgic for him since it’s the place he trained for his junior men’s victory at the 2007 Mombasa World Cross Country Championships.
It’s in Mombasa where Kiprop, 27, last appeared at the world championships.
“It feels great to make a comeback at World Cross Country after 10 years,” said Kiprop, who claimed the mantle after he guided Kenya Police team to Mixed Relays victory at Uhuru Gardens.
“Embu is the place that catapulted me to the international scene hence returning their will not only bring out the fond memories but also inspire me,” said Kiprop, who will be seeking his fourth consecutive 1,500m world title in London this year after the 2011 Daegu, 2013 Moscow and Beijing 2015 exploits.
Kiprop said the relay races at the nationals kicked off his season in earnest, having delayed from his usual month of November.
“I always start my training in November but I delayed it for change and let us see how it will go,” said Kiprop adding that the selected team has the potential of sweeping all the individual titles in Kampala. “We shall proper as so long as we have good time in camp.”
Kiprop said he will be delighted if they make history as the first team to win the mixed relays that will be making its debut at the World Cross. “We should combine well with Nyairera and the rest,” said Kiprop, the 2008 Olympic 1,5000m champion.
1. Sandra Chebet (Nairobi) 19:25.1
2. Cellphine Chespol (Nairobi) 19:46.6
3. Sheila Chelagat (South Rift) 19:49.6
4. Emmaculate Chepkirui (South Rift) 19:51.8
5. Joyline Cherotich (South Rift) 19:53.8
6. Esther Muthoni (Nairobi) 19:56. 7
1. Richard Kimunyan (Central Rift) 23:03.2
2. Meshak Munguti (Southern) 23:10.0
3. Wesley Ladema (Nairobi) 23:13.2
4. Edwin Kiplagat (South Rift) 23:14.5
5. Amos Kirui (South Rift) 23:17.1
6. Ronald Kirui (South Rift) 23:22.0
1.Leonard Barsaton (Police) 28:56.3
2.Bedan Karoki (Police) 29:02.3
3. Geoffrey Kamworor (Police) 29:03.4
4. Vincent Rono (Nairobi) 29:06.3
5. Leonard Komon (Coast) 29:08.8
6. Leonard Lagat (South Rift) 29:13.8
1. Leonard Barsoton (Police) 28:56.03
2. Bedan Karoki (Police) 29:02.3
3. Geoffrey Kamworor (Police) 29:03.04
4. Vincent Rono (Nairobi) 29:06.03
5. Leonard Komon (Coast) 29:08.08
6. Leonard Lagat (South Rift) 29:13.08
7. Nicholas Kosimbei (South Rift) 29:22.06
8. Peter Emase (Prisons) 29:23.05
9. Mangata Ndiwa (Prisons) 29:24.01
10. Barnabas Koskei (Coast) 29:27.01
1. Irene Cheptai (Police) 31:47.05
2. Lillian Kasait (South Rift) 31:51.09
3. Faith Chepngetich (South Rift) 32:12.09
4. Alice Aprot (Prisons) 32:18.08
5. Agnes Tirop (Police) 32:47.04
6. Hyvin Kiyeng (Police) 32:52.03
7. Joan Chepkemoi (South Rift) 33:02.01
8. Pascalia Jepkorir (Police) 33:06.07
9. Nancy Nzisa (Prisons) 33:09.05
10. Margaret Chelimo (Nairobi) 33:14.07