Mathew Kisorio wins the 8km men's race during the KCB National Cross Country series meeting at Kisii (Mohammed Amin) © Copyright
Report Kisii, Kenya

Fresh junior women’s talent unveiled in Kisii – Kenyan weekend cross country series

As he worked through his dinner of ugali – the Kenyan maize meal staple – and chicken stew at Kisii’s Havanna Club on Friday night, Mathew Kisorio recalled with nostalgia how his father’s cross country career blossomed in this fertile western Kenya town famous for the cultivation of bananas.

It was in Kisii that Some Muge started his ascent in cross country running that culminated in Kenya’s first ever medal at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, a bronze in the 1983 senior men’s race when Muge finished behind Ethiopia’s Bekele Debele and Portugal’s Carlos Lopez in Gateshead.

Two years later, Paul Kipkoech struck silver in Lisbon before the great five-times world champion John Ngugi won the first of his four straight titles in Neuchatel in 1986.

The rest, as they say, is history, with Kenyans completely dominating cross country running along with their Ethiopian neighbours with a sprinkling of Moroccans.

Since Muge passed on, Kisorio has fast risen to prominence in cross country running and determined to follow in his father’s footsteps, he made his first appearance at the Kisii Golf Club course on Saturday (19) where he astonishingly blew away his classy opposition, breaking away with three laps to go to win the fourth race of the national cross country series in 36 minutes and 58 seconds.

After races in Machakos, Meru, Nairobi and Kericho, the Kisii leg of the series was effectively the start of Kenya’s serious campaign for the World Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland (28 March), with the men’s 12km field including Kenya’s captain to the Amman championships this year, Mark Kiptoo, Vincent Kiprop, silver medalist at the Mombasa world championships’ junior race a couple of years back and Sammy Kitwara, one of Kenya’s finest distance running prospects.

Kisorio was always in charge from the gun and controlled the race with amazing ease, breaking away and opening a 150-metre gap from his closest challenger Kiprop and never looked under any threat all the way to the finish on the challenging nine-hole golf course circuit.

“I just resumed serious training after finishing my final High School examinations and I did not expect to win that easy here,” said Kisorio who is in his first season as a senior. “It feels great to run in Kisii because my father did very well here and I was determined to do better than him.”

“The course was very tough with the hills but I’m experienced enough and I know how to handle the race.”

Aprot shocks Cherono and Chepng’eno in women’s junior race

There was a shock result in the junior women’s race where upstart Alice Aprot floored a field that included silver medalist from Amman, Mercy Cherono, who has been invincible in the early season, and Jackline Chepng’eno, the bronze medal winner in Amman.

The fresh discovery will serve as good news for Kenya’s prospects in Poland next March but it hardly comes as a surprise because Aprot comes from a running family with his elder brother, Joseph Ebuya, a former World Junior 10,000m silver medalist and 5,000m bronze medalist who also finished fourth in the senior men’s cross in Edinburgh last year.

Aprot’s winning time was 21:02 and it wasn’t really Cherono’s day as she is nursing a hamstring injury and was spiked at the start of Saturday’s race.

“It was a difficult race and I’m now targeting a place on the Kenyan team to Poland,” said Aprot. “My brother Ebuya has offered me a lot of encouragement and I’m now targeting to run my next race in Eldoret.”

Viola Chemweno (21:18) was second, Chepng’eno (21:18) a close third in 21:18 and Hilda Chepkemoi fourth in 21:19.

Cherono, a winner in Nairobi and Kericho, was sixth in 21:24 but the World Youth and World Junior 3,000m gold medalist put on a brave face after the race: “I’ve tried to wish away the hamstring problem but it was a bit nagging. But I’m still in the running for the jackpot in the series and I’m sure I will be fine at the next race.”

The senior women’s 8km race was won by former World Junior 3,000m champion Gladys Chemweno in 28:12 with Japhet Korir, 13th in Amman, winning the junior men’s race.

Watching the action from the sidelines was Olympic champion Samuel Wanjiru, the World Marathon Majors winner, who later planted a tree in Kebirigo town on the outskirts of Kisii, drumming up an environmental message to the locals.

“We need a green country. Without trees, we will not have a conducive environment to run in,” The Chicago and London Marathon champion said at the Kebirigo Community Resource Centre at the tree-planting ceremony.

Elias Makori for the IAAF

Leading results from the KCB Kenya National Cross Country Series’ Kisii race:
6km Junior women – 1. Alice Aprot 21:02, 2. Viola Chemweno 21:18, 3. Jackline Chepngeno 21:18, 4. Hilda Chepkemoi 21:19, 5. Faith Chepngetich 21:22, 6. Mercy Cherono 21:24.

8km Senior women – 1. Gladys Chemweno 28:12, 2. Emily Muge 28:14, 3. Ann Wanjiru 28:36, 4. Esther Chemutai 28:54, 5. Alice Kimeto 29:02, 6. Mary Wangare 29:16.

8km Junior men – 1. Japheth Korir 24:09, 2. David Silele 24:14, 3. Paulo Mutero 24:30, 4. Simon Cheprot 24:31, 5. Charles Kibet 24:38, 6. Paul Kemboi 24:43.

12km Senior Men – 1. Mathew Kisorio 36:58, 2. Vincent Kiprop 37:13, 3. Bernard Lagat 37:23, 4. Kiptai Kiplimo 37:30, 5. Shadrack Koskei 37:34, 6. Wilson Kipsang 37:40.