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Kenyan Zakayo faces Uganda challenge in Spain’s cross country

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Nairobi, Nov 17: World junior 5,000 metre champion Edward Zakayo of Kenya is hopeful of launching his cross country career on a winning note in Soria in Spain on Sunday.

The International Cross Country of Soria is part of the IAAF Cross Country permit series, reports Xinhua news agency.

Zakayo, 16, said he feels ready to reignite his career as he targets to make the Kenya team to the World Cross Country Championships in Aarhus, Denmark in March.

"The target is to be in the final team that will compete in Denmark. I always believe in myself and train hard. But to make the Kenya team is even harder than competing at the world cross-country. In Kenya, there is always somebody emerging, who wants to edge you out. That is what makes national trials so difficult to predict," said Zakayo.

In Soria, he will be up against defending champion Jacob Kiplimo of Uganda, the World Junior Cross Country champion who turned 18 this week and is fresh from a commanding win in Atapuerca, Spain last Sunday.

They competed over the 5,000m event in Tampere, Finland during the World Junior Championships in July when Zakayo triumphed and Kiplimo placed sixth. But Kiplimo beat Zakayo to third in Atapuerca by 15 seconds.

"Cross country is unpredictable because it depends on the terrain. But it was my first race in Atapuerca and now I have regained my fitness and will be hard to beat," said Zakayo.

Uganda's Timothy Toroitich and Teklemariam Medhin of Eritrea will also challenge for podium places. Toroitich, 27, had a hat- trick of wins between 2014 and 2016 and finished runner-up last year.

Medhin returned to action last weekend after an 18-month halt because of recurrent injuries. The 2010 world cross-country silver medallist finished ninth in Atapuerca.

In the women's race, Kenya's Gloria Kite is the one to beat as the 19-year-old placed fourth in Atapuerca, just eight seconds adrift the winner. Others include Sweden's Meraf Bahta and Denmark's European U23 steeplechase champion Anna Emilie Moller. 

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