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Cross country team ready for African challenge

Thirty athletes leave the country on March 13 for Chlef, Algeria where they will represent the country in the Fifth edition of the Africa Cross Country Championship scheduled for March 17.

With defending champions Geoffrey Kamwaror and Alice Aprot missing from the team, Alfred Barkach and Stacy Ndiwa will carry Kenya’s hopes of bagging gold in the Senior 10km races. Barkach a second place finisher in the national trials held at Uhuru Gardens on February 10 will lead the senior men in a team that has Emmanuel Bor, John Chepkwony and Josephat Bett among others.

“I am well prepared and after three weeks of intensive training, I am confident of clinching gold. I have to fit in the shoes of Kamworor and I believe I have what it takes to beat the best,” said Barkach.

The relatively new face was a second place finisher in the senior men race at the national trials, behind Kamworor who will not be featuring in the competitions as he was reserved for the Commonwealth Games slated for April in Gold Coast, Australia.

With Athletics Kenya fielding relatively new faces for the continental meet, head coach John Kimetto is upbeat ahead of the competitions saying that the new entrants will deliver. “Kenya is a hot bed of talent. We have seen great talents emerge and go on to beat the world and we expect nothing less from the squad we have,” Kimetto said.

“The Lotto Foundation-sponsored cross-country series has nurtured some great talents and that will be evident in this outing. The training we’ve had in Embu has also prepared us both physically and mentally for the games,” added Kimetto.

Meanwhile, in the women’s senior race Ndiwa who is making a return from a two-year maternity leave will lead a squad that has Sandra Felis Chebet, Maragaret Chelimo, Celiphine Chespol, Perin Nenkampi and Rosemery Njeri in flying the Kenyan flag in Algeria. In the junior women’s 6km, Miriam Cherop who trains under Kimetto, has a chance to defend her title.

“I have prepared very well and I am ready to defend the title I won in Yaoundé, Cameroon. I know the competition will be stiff but I am ready,” Cherop said. Roselinda Jepketer, Beatrice Chebet, Agnes Jebet, Hellen Ekalale and Edna Jebitok made the junior team.

World Under-18 3000m duo of Stanley Waithaka and Edward Zakayo will chase gold in the juniors 8km alongside Ronex Kipruto, Peter Lagat, Nicholas Kipkorir and Edwin Kiplgata. At the Africa Cross country Championships in Yaounde, Cameroon in 2016, Kenya swept the podium in senior and junior women races.

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