Highlights from the Eldoret National Cross Country Championship

After much anticipation, the National Cross Country Championship was finally held on Saturday, February 23 at the Eldoret Sports Club in Uasin Gishu County. With the team for the World Cross now selected, focus now shifting to the Championship slated for March 30 in Aarhus, Denmark and here we take a look at some of the highlights from the national event. Taking the competition grassroots the best way to go That was the first ever national championships to be held outside Nairobi and Eldoret town which is backyard to many athletes in the country. As predicted many fans thronged the Eldoret Sports Club facility to the brim. And although the race was earmarked to kick off from 2:00pm in the afternoon, fans started arriving to the grounds as early as 8:00am in the morning. In fact, it was literally difficult to find your way past the gates at around 12 noon as the grounds were filled up with excited fans eager to get a glimpse of the world beaters, they have been watching on their television sets. The scenes witnessed on Saturday were reminisced of the 2016 Rio Olympics trials held at the Kipchoge Keino Stadium where also fans thronged the stadium to its capacity. The previous editions in Nairobi could not attract huge crowds as those witnessed in Eldoret which points out that the AK approach of taking the championships to the grass roots could not have come at a better time. Cross-Country race still a priority for top athletes Kenya has traditionally dominated the Cross-Country championships since the days of the legendary athletes David Ngugi and Paul Tergat both of whom clinched five titles during their times. Year in year out athletes have taken keen interest on the Cross-Country race aside from the track assignments. This year is no difference either as renowned athletes who have shone in track showed up in the Cross Country and although not all of them qualified a handful shone also in the nationals. World 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri who will be making her debut at the World Cross is a case of how the Cross-Country trace is such important in an athlete’s career. “I am excited to be making my World Cross debut. I am now missing the World Cross title and I think I am going to train hard ahead of the race,” said Obiri after clinching the national title on Saturday. World 1,500m champion Elijah Manangoi will also be making his maiden appearance in Denmark after making the team of mixed relays alongside Olympic and World 3,000m steeplechase champion Conselsus Kipruto. World 3,000m steeplechase record holder Beatrice Chepkoech just to mention a few. This shows how seriously athletes takes Cross Country competition. Sports a uniting factor The power of sports is beyond the medals earned by athletes as it brings together people from different parts of the country not forgetting foreigners who show up. Aside from the multitude of the athletics fanatics the championships also brought six governors led by host Jackson Mandago, Elgeyo Marakwet boss Alex Tolgos, Paul Chepkwony (Kericho), Josephat Nanok (Turkana) Stanley Kiptis (Baringo), Stephen Sang (Nandi) and Patrick Khaemba of Trans Nzoia County.

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