Hellen Obiri celebrates her win at the Northern Ireland International Cross Country (© Mark Shearman)
Kenya’s Hellen Obiri started her year with a win at the Northern Ireland International Cross Country, a World Athletics Cross Country Tour Silver event, in Dundonald on Saturday (22).
Untroubled throughout, the world cross country champion ran 26:44 to secure a 20-second triumph in the women’s 8km race, with Northern Ireland’s Hannah Irwin winning the domestic battle behind her to finish runner-up, three seconds ahead of Scotland’s Mhairi Maclennan.
“It is my first time running cross country here. The course was good, it was challenging, but I am used to doing a lot of cross country. It is a sign of my preparation towards my outdoor season,” Obiri told BBC Sport NI.
Looking to the months ahead, the two-time world and Commonwealth 5000m champion added: “In 2022 we have a lot of competitions. We have the Commonwealth Games, we have the World Championships and we have some Diamond Leagues and road races. I will talk with my manager and coach to see what is best for me in the 2022 season.”
Obiri's win in Dundonald came on the same day that the Kenyan Cross Country Championships took place, with Joyce Chepkemoi and Samuel Chebolei claiming the national titles in Eldoret.
Finishing fourth in Dundonald, on the outskirts of Belfast, was England’s Eleanor Bolton, while European U20 cross country champion Megan Keith finished fifth for Scotland.
In the men’s 10km race it was England’s Zak Mahamed who was victorious, as he ran 29:49 to claim a seven-second win ahead of Italy’s Iliass Aouani.
Mahamed, Aouani and Scotland’s Stuart McCallum had broken away midway through the race, but McCallum dropped back on the penultimate lap, leaving Mahamed and Aouani to battle for the win.
Behind McCallum, who ran 30:03, Hugo Milner finished fourth and Jack Millar fifth.
The 4km women’s U20 race was won by Scotland’s Hannah Ryding, while victory in the 6km men’s U20 race was claimed by England’s Sam Mills.
1 Hellen Obiri (KEN) 26:44
2 Hannah Irwin (GBR) 27:04
3 Mhairi Maclennan (GBR) 27:07
4 Eleanor Bolton (GBR) 27:21
5 Megan Keith (GBR) 27:25
1 Zak Mahamed (GBR) 29:49
2 Iliass Aouani (ITA) 29:56
3 Stuart McCallum (GBR) 30:03
4 Hugo Milner (GBR) 30:14
5 Jack Millar (GBR) 30:26