World U20 5,000m champion Edward Zakayo is not startled even as he moves closer to a race he has only termed as ‘baptism of fire’, National Cross-Country Championships set for Saturday at the Eldoret Sports Club.
The junior is adamant he has been exhaustive in his training for the national trails that will double up as World Cross Country championships set for Aarhus, Denmark in March 30.
“I am worried. Of course I am, this will be my first race in the senior category, and it is like diving into the deep end. But that is as far as it goes, I want to qualify for the World Cross Country,” the Form Three student said.
Zakayo says the presence of big names like defending champion Geoffrey Kamworor will only push him harder come the material day for an automatic selection to the team.
“When you know there are big names in the race, you have to work extra hard to finish within the podium positions to stand a chance of representing the country. I have been informed that finishing in the first six positions is no guarantee of qualification,” a determined Zakayo said.
The Kapsait Secondary School student’s remarks comes after Athletics Kenya (AK) scrapped the first-six-across-the-line rule to select Kenya’s team to the World Cross, re-introducing the first four and two more being selected by a panel of coaches to fill the final six member team in both junior and senior teams.
“For people like myself, that is disadvantage, and a say that in a good way. I know we have to work twice as harder,” said the runner who finished fifth at the championships held at the Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi, in the junior category.
The Commonwealth Games bronze medalist who will be representing North Rift region in the trails says whatever happens, he is not scared to try by putting his best foot forward.
Kenya Defence Forces is represented by 45 athletes and have exuded confidence that they would fly KDF’s flag high Saturday.
They would take on Kenya Police, Kenya Prisons among other teams and the winners will join the team to represent Kenya during the 44th IAAF World Cross Country Championships.
With the inugural championships outside Nairobi at the Eldoret Sports Club, thousands are expected to watch as the team that will definitely carry the day in Aarhus is selected in a spectacle that will bring together the who-is-who in Kenyan athletics.
National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K) chairman Paul Tergat is expected to lead other officials including AK chairman Jack Tuwei and the LOC led by Abraham Mutai and the entire AK leadership. Uasin Gishu Governor Mandago has promised to bus in 1000s of residents to watch the world spectacle. – Additional reporting by Derek Otieno