By John Kwoba
NAIROBI, March 20 (Xinhua) -- Kenya and Ethiopia are the most successful countries in the history of the world cross-country championships, winning 119 of the 158 available team titles.
The two countries have met 120 times where both have fielded full teams, with Kenya beating Ethiopia 78-42.
However, that will count for nothing when they parade their athletes at the Myslecinek Park arena in Bydgoszcz, Poland on Sunday for the 40th edition of the World Cross Country Championships.
"The preparations are complete. The athletes are ready and the world is waiting to see again where Kenya will be at the end of the championships," said head coach Sammy Rono in Nairobi.
"We have had a good run in Poland. The last three appearances in Poland (all in Bydgoszsc) have been successful for Kenya. We won the overall title and I believe we have the same squad full of strength to wrest that coveted spot at the top of the world."
Kenya team departs Wednesday to Poland buoyant, and they will weather the storm and rule the roost in the event.
Back in 2010, Kenya won all the eight team and individual medals restoring their prowess in the competition after Ethiopia and Eritrea had poked holes in their bankers.
"I have hopes, I will be able to reclaim my senior women title. I was a nobody back in 2010 when I won in Bydgoszsc. But Now everyone will be out to beat me. I love challenges and this is one I take personally," said Emily Chebet, the 2010 senior women champion.
Kenya will parade a squad of 24 athletes with only three returning to the city after their show in 2010. They are Chebet, Faith Chepng'etich, the world junior champion, and Margaret Wangare.
African runners should have it tougher than at flat grass courses in the past years. But they also showed their abilities in snow and mud in the history of the event. Entry lists are confirming in total 456 runners from 47 countries and regions for the four races.
Last time 47 countries and regions competed was back in 1987, interestingly also in Poland (Warszawa). Last two editions in Punta Umbria and here in Bydgoszcz had 51 countries and regions, the record is 76 in Vilamoura, Portugal.
Among the entered countries 12 from Europe. The number of entered runners (456) is higher than at last championships, 423 in Punta Umbria and 437 in Bydgoszcz 2010. For the races 126 senior men and 111 senior women with 122 junior boys and 97 junior girls are registered.
For both male races 19 teams each want to score, in female races 16 teams each are entered. Kenya has been able to run rings around their rivals in the competition claiming sweeps of all available team titles in 1991, 1993, 1995, 1996 and 2010.
In all those years, the Kenyans won team gold in the senior and junior races, men and women. In 2010, Kenya also won all four individual titles.
The most medals won by a country is 286 by Kenya, followed by 234 by Ethiopia and 62 by the United States.
The most team gold medals won is 79 by Kenya, with at least one every year since 1986 followed by Ethiopia 40. The most team medals is 117 by Ethiopia compared with 115 by Kenya.