Five Kenyan-born runners have been named in the final United States team to the World Cross Country Championships in Denmark at the end of this month.
US national cross country champion Shadrack Kipchirchir, a 2016 Rio Olympic 10,000m finalist, leads the team of 28 for the March 30 world cross in Aarhus, Denmark.
He will be joined by 2018 US cross-country champion Leonard Korir, Hillary Bor, Stanley Kebenei, Emmanuel Bor and the only US-born runner in the senior men’s team, Mason Ferlic.
Kipchirchir, Korir and Kebenei were part of the US team for the 2017 World Cross Country Championships in Kampala, where they finished fifth in the senior men’s team standings, just six points shy of a medal. Three of the Kenyans are soldiers in the US Army, where Emmanuel and Korir are Sergents while Hillary is a Staff Sergent. Kipchirchir is currently contracted by Nike and training with the American Distance Project under Scott Simmons in Colorado, having served four years in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program (WCAP). Kebenei is also at ADP, having graduated from the University of Arkansas. Ferlic is a steeplechase specialist.
Athletics Kenya (AK) Youth Committee chairman Barnaba Korir, who ran in the US Collegiate circuit (NCAA), said it is a plus to have Kenya ‘B’ line up in Aarhus since it shows Kenyan athletics exports are making a mark for themselves in the world.
“It shouldn’t be a concern for us since those are personal decisions (to change allegiance) and it shows Kenya are still a force to reckon with. We have too much talent and should always look at their change of citizenship in a positive way,” said Korir.
“We should not castigate them but instead, appreciate them like we have previously done before with sportsmen with Kenyan roots including Divock Origi (footballer- Belgium) and Chris Froome (cyclist- Great Britain).”
“Having Kenyans run for other nations has never affected our position in the world of athletics and heading to Denmark, our focus should be on the Ugandans and the Ethiopians, without underrating the rest of the Kenyan-born international athletes.”
Korir observed that Kenya should now try and see how they can benefit from such engagements, by encouraging such runners to repatriate resources back home like Lornah Kiplagat has done with the track she has erected in Iten.
“We need to build strong relationships with the individual athletes and their adopted countries to see how this can help Kenyan athletics now that we barely have professional training camps while running tracks in the major stadia are in deplorable state including Nyayo Stadium, Kamariny and others,” he observed.
“We should also focus on making our teams stronger now that the entry of adopted Kenyans in the major championships have greatly improved competition for medals.”
Courtney Frerichs, the North American record-holder in the steeplechase, will be joined by three-time NCAA champion Karissa Schweizer, Marielle Hall, Stephanie Bruce, Anne-Marie Blaney and Sarah Pagano in the senior women’s team.
The mixed relay has Kirubel Erassa, Eleanor Fulton, Jordan Mann and Shannon Osika. The Under 20 men’s team comprises of Shuaib Aljabaly, Mieka Beaudoin-Rousseau, Robert Cheeseman, Khalid Hussein, Gabriel Mudel and Charlie Perry while the U20 women’s sextet are Nicole Clermont, Heidi Nielson, Grace Ping, Riley Rigdon, Savannah Shaw and Kayla Smith.