By John Kwoba
NAIROBI, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- World Half marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor and Olympic gold medalist Hellen Obiri are the favorites to win the Kenyan national cross country championships on Saturday.
However, the two will have no role to play for Kenya at the Africa Cross Country Championships, which will be held next month in Chlef, Algeria.
The two have alternative plans with Kamworor heading to Valencia to defend his World Half Marathon title, while Obiri will be in Birmingham City, England for the World Indoor Championships, where she is keen to recapture her 3,000m crown.
That however, has not soothed the hunger that both have to excel at the Kenyan event, which is being used as trial to select the team to the continental fiesta.
Athletics Kenya Vice President Paul Mutwii confirmed that the top six athletes across the line will book their ticket to Africa Cross Country Championships due for March 17 in Chlef, Algeria.
"The competition is stiff as always. Kenya has a deep reservoir of top athletes and to give one the favorite tag is hard. Anyone can take the day," said Mutwii on Friday in Nairobi.
The national cross country champions Leonard Barsoton and Irene Cheptai will both skip the race as they too are chasing medals at the World Half Marathon in Valencia.
"I will take the race serious because am using it to polish my endurance ahead of the World Half," said Kamworor.
"I also know that my colleague Bedan Karoki, who we will compete with in Valencia, is in top form after winning in RAK half marathon in Dubai. So I have every intention to run fast and win," he added.
One athlete to watch out for will be Richard Kimunyan, who won the junior men's race last year and claimed bronze at the World Cross Country Championships in Kampala.
He has moved up the ladder to senior men and will be a good prospect to rattle the status quo.
Others to watch out for include Africa 10,000m silver medalist Wilfred Kimitei, veteran Mangata Ndiwa and World 3,000m steeplechase champion Conceslus Kipruto.
World 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri will renew her rivalry with Africa Cross Country champion Alice Aprot.
Aprot is keen to defend her crown in Chlef and will use the race in Nairobi to stamp her authority.
However, she must be worried of the challenge posed by World Cross Country Junior champion Cellphine Chespol, former Paris Marathon champion Visiline Jepkesho and Stancy Ndiwa.
Junior stars emerging through the system and keen to leave a mark include Miriam Cherop, World Youth champion in 2,000m steeplechase Caren Chebet, Lydia Jeruto and Ednah Jebitok.