Former Africa cross country bronze medalist Charles Yosei Mneria and Rosemary Wanjiru fired warning shots after winning the 2021 Kenya Prisons Cross Country Championships at Prisons Staff Training College in Ruiru on Saturday.
The culmination of the one-day exercise saw the department name an 18-member squad for the national cross country championships set for Kisii on February 13.
Mneria was particularly impressive, showing he is in top shape ahead of the national championships.
Mneria humbled a relatively strong field that had 800m runner Boaz Kiprugut and Africa 10,000m silver medalist Wilfred Kimitei to win in a time of 30:00.15 to make it a hat-trick titles at the Prisons championships.
Kiprugut (30:42.63), Kimitei (30:44.36), Emmanuel Ng’etuny (30:59.94) came second, third and fourth respectively as road racer Peter Emase (31:21.51) and Peter Wanyoike (31:30.20) sealed the top six places to make the team.
With Kenya Defense Forces and Kenya Police due to have their championships, Mneria says he is ready for former and current national champions, Geoffrey Kamworor and Kibiwot Kandie.
“I am confident because I am in good shape this time round. The injury has healed. I feel like I can challenge anybody at the moment. I know the other athletes are also preparing well.
Personally, I want to use the cross country season to prepare for the Olympics trials in 10000m. I know it will not be easy,” remarked Mneria.
Going to the Olympics in Tokyo 2021, Mneria more than ever feels Kenya has a big chance at 10,000m glory.
“I think, as a nation, we can win the 10000m gold at the Olympic Games if we prepare and plan well.
We have some of the best 10,000m athletes like Kandie, Kamworor, Rhonex Kipruto, just to name a few. With good teamwork, we have a chance,” added Mneria.
In the women’s category, Wanjiru, fifth-placed at the 2019 world championships in 10,000m, was in her own class.
The 26-year-old led from gun to tape winning in a time of 33:43.53.
Her sole challenger Lilian Kasait, the 2017 world cross country silver medalist, trailed in second in 34:17.01. Gladys Jerono (35:07.24) and Africa cross country champion Alice Aprot (35:55.52) came third and fourth respectively.
Loice Chemining (35:58.52), Abigael Chelagat (36:14.16), Tabitha Wangui (36:51.93), Catherine Syokau (36:36:59.85), Jackline Wambui (37:04.35) and Nancy Kimaiyo (37:18.75) completed the top 10 spots.
“I am using the cross country competitions as part of preparations for RAK Half Marathon next month, where I am longing to improve my personal best,” said Wanjiru.
“After RAK, I will focus on the Olympics trials in 10,000m. I must prepare well,” said Wanjiru. Kasait said she had only trained for two months.