In the heartland of Kenyan distance running, the Sirikwa Classic Cross Country is gearing up to host a constellation of the world’s elite athletes in Eldoret, renowned as the ‘City of Champions’.
This Saturday marks not just another race day but a showpiece event in the World Athletics Cross Country Tour Gold, with the penultimate Gold meeting setting the stage for a captivating contest.
Daniel Ebenyo and Emmaculate Anyango Acholi, two of Kenya’s finest, are headlining the meet. Ebenyo, a World 10,000m and half marathon silver medallist, is entering the fray on the back of a 29:16 victory at the Campaccio-International in January.
His ambition at the Sirikwa Classic is clear – a strong debut on home turf and a second Gold label victory to solidify his status as a global distance-running powerhouse. Yet, his path is not without hurdles, as a formidable field awaits to challenge his aspirations.
Ebenyo will find himself against Ishmael Kipkurui, the world U20 cross country champion, and a cohort of Kenya’s best, including Stanley Waithaka, Nicholas Kipkorir Kimeli, Ronald Kwemoi, and Sabastian Sawe.
Each brings their own tale of triumph and pursuit of glory to the senior men’s 10km race. Sawe, notably, is making a comeback to cross country after a hiatus, with his last outing being a senior team title at the 2021 World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst.
The plot thickens with Kwemoi, who is hot on the heels of his own second Gold label victory after a triumph in Seville last November.
Meanwhile, Kimeli, a World 5km bronze medallist, is no stranger to the Eldoret course and is looking to one-up his second-place finish from the previous year.
Joining them is Abraham Kibiwot, a world-class steeplechaser, and the resilient Waithaka, returning with redemption in his stride after an injury forced him out last year.
For the women, the narrative is equally compelling. Anyango, the world’s second fastest over 10km, is embarking on her Sirikwa Classic debut. With her historical sub-29-minute feat in Valencia, expectations are sky-high.
She’s flanked by Grace Loibach Nawowuna, a promising talent aiming for local acclaim, and an array of Kenyan stars, including marathon sensation Joyciline Jepkosgei and world half marathon bronze medallist Catherine Amanang’ole.
The event will also feature international flavor, with Norway’s Hanne Mjoen Maridal taking her place among the elite field. More than ten countries will be represented, underscoring the Sirikwa Classic’s global appeal.
But the Sirikwa Classic is more than an elite race; it’s a celebration of the sport at every level. Age-grade competitions will spotlight the raw talent of youngsters, with Athletics Kenya taking the opportunity to scout for future stars.
The event resonates with the ethos of discovery, as aptly put by Athletics Kenya President Lt. Gen. (Rtd) Jackson Tuwei, emphasizing the dual joy of competition and the uncovering of new talent.
With a slightly altered course free from the water jump and a total prize purse that’s seen a significant increase, the stage is perfectly set for a day of riveting races.
From the junior events in the morning to the crescendo of the senior races, the Sirikwa Classic promises to be a spectacle of endurance and speed, with the African Cross Country Championships selections hanging in the balance.
As the clock counts down to race day, the city of Eldoret waits with bated breath, ready to witness the drama of cross country unfold on its soil.