Could We See Asbel Kiprop vs. Genzebe Dibaba on Sunday? Everything You Need to Know About the New 4 x 2K Relay at World XC

March 25, 2017

KAMPALA, Uganda — One of the biggest changes for the 2017 IAAF World Cross Country Championships is the addition of a mixed-gender 4 x 2K relay. In theory, you’d think this would boost the Americans’ medal chances as, after Kenya (and perhaps Ethiopia), no country seems better suited for a distance like that. But while the U.S. team does include red-hot Paul Chelimo, the Olympic silver medallist at 5,000 meters, the three other legs (Cory LeslieMarisa HowardEleanor Fulton) probably aren’t strong enough for the Americans to contend for a medal.

As usual at World XC, the battle for gold should be between Kenya, which trots out four-time global champion Asbel Kiprop, and Ethiopia, which will be running 1500 world record holder Genzebe Dibaba. We take a look at that battle in more detail and tell you everything you need to know about the race below.

What: 2017 IAAF World Cross Country Championships

When: Sunday, March 26, 2017

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Where: Kololo Independence Grounds, Kampala, Uganda (The Course is Tough, Video Preview and Photo Gallery of it here)


Mixed 4 x 2K relay: 2:00 p.m. local/7:00 a.m. ET
Women’s U20 6K race: 2:30 p.m. local/7:30 a.m. ET
Men’s U20 8K race: 3:10 p.m. local/8:10 a.m. ET
Women’s senior 10K race: 3:55 p.m. local/8:55 a.m. ET
Men’s senior 10K race: 4:55 p.m. local/9:55 a.m. ET

How to watch / listen: If you live in the UK, you can watch it live on BBC Red Button or if you have a UK IP address, you can watch the race live online via the BBC. In the U.S., the races will be streamed on NBC Sports’ website on tape delay, with coverage beginning at 12:25 p.m. ET. We do not know of a (legal) live stream in the U.S, but are sure you will be able to follow the race on our fan forum / messageboard and likely will find a link to a stream to watch from there.

The IAAF will also have a live radio broadcast (active during competition sessions) of the championships as well as live results and a live blog (active during competition sessions).

Entries * Official site * Local organizing committee site * 2015 LRC World XC coverage

Embed from Getty Images

What You Need to Know

  • Every athlete on each team has to run one loop of the roughly 2,000-meter course. But here’s the cool thing: each country gets to set its running order. So Kenya could put Kiprop first and try to build up a massive lead, or they could leave him until last and give him someone to chase. In our dream scenario, Kenya uses Kiprop on the anchor and Ethiopia uses Dibaba, which would allow him to try to run her down over the final leg.
  • There’s no baton; instead, athletes will need to carry a wristband and transfer it to the next leg in the 20-meter exchange zone at the start/finish area.
  • This is Team Kenya: Kiprop (3:26 1500), Bernard Kipkorir Koros (3:38), Beatrice Chepkoech (4:03/9:10 steeple) and Winfred Mbithe (4:09, 4th at World U20s last year).
  • This is Team Ethiopia: Dibaba (3:50), Yomif Kejelcha (7:28, World Indoor 3k champ), Welde Tufa (3:41, 4th at World Youths in 2015) and Bone Cheluke (we know nothing about her).
  • On paper, it’s a toss-up. Kiprop and Kejelcha cancel each other out, and while Dibaba gives Ethiopia an advantage on the women’s leg, Kenya’s #2 man is faster and we don’t know anything about Ethiopia’s  #2 woman. Hopefully it’s a close race between the two.
  • You know all about Chelimo, but what about the rest of Team USA? Cory Leslie is primarily a steeplechaser (he was 7th at last year’s Olympic Trials) but he also ran 3:53 for the mile last year. He ran 3:57 this year at Millrose (9th). Marisa Howard is also a steepler, the 2015 NCAA runner-up at Boise State. Her PRs are 4:18, 15:54 and 9:37 for the steeple, with her best — and only — individual race this year a 9:15 3k in Seattle on January 28. Eleanor Fulton, a 2016 Washington grad, runs with Portland-based High Performance West and was 7th in the 1,000 at USA Indoors this year. Her PRs are 2:08, 4:19 and 9:44 for 3k.
    It’s a shame that more of the top Americans aren’t doing this race. We know it’s a tough sell to ask athletes to fly halfway around the world to Uganda to race for five minutes of racing, but the U.S. has done so well recently in the middle distance events that it would likely be a medal favorite. A team of Chelimo, Matthew CentrowitzJenny Simpson and Shannon Rowbury would be hard to stop. Even a B team — something like Chelimo, Kyle Merber (who ran the mixed relay in Edinburgh earlier this year), Katie Mackey and Heather Kampf — would have a shot to do very well here. But even if Chelimo has the fastest split of the day, the U.S. stands to lose too much ground on the other legs for them to have a shot at medalling.
  • Kenya and Ethiopia will likely finish 1-2 in some order, but watch out for Turkey. The Turks have punted on the individual races to load up their relay squad, which features the last male European XC champs (Ali and Aras Kaya) as well as reigning female champ Yasemin Can. The fourth leg, Meryem Akdag (2:04/4:09/9:03/15:19) is solid as well. We expect Turkey to medal, and if one of the youngsters on Ethiopia or Kenya falter, they could challenge for silver or gold. If the Turks somehow win, however, be prepared for a sea of hot takes from Europe as all four members of the team are Kenyan-born.
  • Host Uganda, with Winnie Nanyondo (1:58 800) and Olympic 1500 finalist Ronald Musagala (3:35) could also be in the medal hunt.
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