Kenya Defence Forces has fired early shots at Kenya Police Service warning them of impending assault during the National Cross Country Championships slated for February 23 at Eldoret Sports Club.
That happened as Athletics Kenya Central Rift chairman Abraham Mutai declared that they are ready for the championships where Team Kenya will be selected for the World Championships due March 30 in Aarhus, Denmark.
Also sounding war drums ahead of the national meet is Kenya Prisons team ready to recapture senior women’s title besides targeting their maiden crown in men’s race.
KDF coach Julius Kirwa said his charges are optimistic of ending Kenya Police’s dominance with victory in Eldoret while his Prisons counterpart Gedion Chirchir said they are ready for the battle.
Police coach Isaac Kirwa has on Wednesday dared their rivals, warning them to prepare for explosive warfare, saying their strong room has enough armour to wade off any attack.
The disciplined forces selected their teams last weekend and KDF has already pitched camp in Eldoret.
KDF are yet to win senior men’s title since 2003 when John Cheruiyot Korir sealed a brace, having reigned supreme for the first time in 2001 while senior women’s title has evaded KDF for 23 years.
However, KDF have had a fair share of national success with legendary Paul Tergat and the late Paul Koech having dominated in the 1990s. Tergat won four while Koech three times but Tergat went on to win five world titles.
Legendary Sally Barsosio is the last soldier to have won the title for KDF back in 1996.
Police have won the last three editions through defending champion Geoffrey Kamworor in 2018 and 2016 and Leonard Barsoton in 2017.
In senior women, Police have won the last two editions with Irene Cheptai winning in 2017 on her way to clinch the World Cross Country Championships the same year and Stacy Ndiwa last year.
Alice Aprot gave Prisons their only title in 2016. Interestingly, it’s Hellen Chepngeno of Prisons, who handed Kenya its maiden title at the World Cross Country in 1996.
“We have been training hard in Eldoret and I think our prayers and togetherness will do the trick,” said Kirwa.
“We must get it right this time around especially in women’s race and our vibrant and determined youngsters are hungry for a surprise in men’s race.”
Kirwa and the KDF battalion will bank their hopes on World and Commonwealth 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri, who is taking part at the Nationals for the first time, to end their two-decade drought.
Obiri, who is also the Africa 5,00m champion and 2016 Rio Olympic silver medallist, sealed her fourth KDF title on Friday and will be seeking for support from stable mate experienced Perin Nenkampi, Irene Kimais, Deborah Samum, Dorcas Kimeli and Caroline Chepkemoi.
The KDF men out to stop Kamworor and his Police contingent are Kibiwott Kandie, Lawi Komen, Vedic Cheruiyot, Jairus Songok, Stephen Arita and Vincent Mutai.
Police coach Isaac Kirwa is optimistic that they will extend their dominance over their rivals particularly KDF, Prisons and the running counties from the Rift Valley.
“The battle will be so intense bearing in mind that we have been marked as favourites,” said Kirwa on Wednesday.
Kamworor, who has won the national title once, will have in his team the Valencia Half Marathon champion Matthew Kisorio, Josephat Bett and Emmanuel Bett while their women’s team has World 3,000m steeplechase record holder Beatrice Chepkoech, 2015 world 3,000 metres steeplechase champion Hyvin Kiyeng and 2015 All Africa Games 5000m champion Margaret Chelimo, who won Plice race last weekend.
Aprot will lead Prisons women’s team that has their winner and Africa cross champion Celliphine Chespol and Loise Chemining.