Eritrea’s Ali Abdallah (bib no. 8) running in Soria, Spain (Luis Angel Tejedor) © Copyright
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Eritrea and Kenya take the cross country spoils in Soria

Soria, SpainEritrea’s Ali Abdallah and Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot were the convincing victors in the ‘13th Cross Internacional de Soria’ - EAA permit - held today (19) at the ‘Monte Valonsadero’ circuit on a windy but generally nice day of weather.

While Abdallah, eighth at this year's World Cross Country Championships long race in Fukuoka, Japan, grabbed a thrilling sprint victory today over Kenya’s Simon Arusei in the men’s race, while Cheruiyot was an overwhelming winner ahead of her compatriot Alice Chelangat in the women’s division.

MEN – sprint finish gains victory by one second

After a frantic first kilometre produced by Spain’s European 10,000 silver medallist José Manuel Martínez, the 24-year-old Eritrean Ali Abdallah made most of the work at the head of the course alongside his more experienced countryman Yonas Kifle. Meanwhile Kenya’s Simon Arusei overcame a very slow start - he was placed 30th in the second kilometre - and made an extra effort to join the Eritreans at the race’s forward point.

By mid-race only two Spaniards - Martínez and Carlos Castillejo - managed to stay in touch with the east African athletes but shortly after the sixth kilometre they dropped off from the leading pack.

With one and a half kilometres remaining it was Kifle who lost ground dramatically and the race turned to a two-way tussle between Abdallah and Arusei. An exciting tight sprint finish witnessed Abdallah powerfully change gear with 60m left in the race to claim victory (over the 10km distance) in 30:10, barely one second ahead of Arusei. Kifle finished in third a further 21 seconds down.

European team places secured
In the domestic clash Castillejo kept Martínez at bay from the seventh kilometre onwards to finish a creditable fourth, with both athletes securing team berths for the European XC in San Giorgio Su Legnano next 10 December. Spain’s European 5000m champion Jesús España finished in 11th place, 1:18 adrift of the winner.

“I only cameback from Eritrea last Thursday,” confirmed a delighted Abdallah. “It was a long trip and I felt a little bit tired before the start so my tactic was to wait and see how the race developed instead of pushing hard from the start.”

“Fortunately I could beat Arusei in the final sprint once my mate Kifle had lost ground. My next race will come next Sunday in Llodio (Spain).”

Based in Spain

Remarkably, today was only Abdallah’s fourth ever cross country long race race after outings atthe Cinque Mulini, Eritrean Champs, and the World Cross Country in Fukuoka.

Abdallah has lived and trained in Madrid since February 2006 under the guidance of Jerónimo Bravo, and he is a training mate of the World Road Running champion Zersenay Tadesse. He already placed eighth at this year’s World Cross Country championships in Fukuoka – one spot behind Kifle and two ahead of Arusei – and according to his coach: “we look forward to the 2007 track season as he has a 27m flat performance in his legs”.

WOMEN – Cheruiyot in a class of her own

A come-from behind run gave Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot an unopposed win over an unusual – at this stage of the season – 8 kilometre distance women's event. From the very early metres her compatriot Alice Chelangat assumed the role of front-runner and set a brisk pace, with China’s Xiaoquing Dong and the Spanish pair of Rosa Morató and Yesenia tucked behind her.

To the surprise of the crowd the pre-race favourite Vivian Cheruiyot - a 14:47.43 5000m athlete - ran only in sixth place some five seconds behind the leaders. It was not until the second kilometre that Cheruiyot got to the front, and with eight minutes on the clock the Kenyan pair had already pulled away from the rest.

Cheruiyot and Chelangat took turns in the lead for two minutes but the former soon opened up a handsome margin over her compatriot and before halfway it became clear that barring disaster the 2002 World Junior 5000m bronze medallist would be the eventual winner.

At the bell with 2000m left to go, her advantage had increased to 17 seconds and it was 26 at the finish line, while in the fight for the final minor place on the podium a thrilling encounter took place between Morató and the Chinese Dong with the former prevailing on the finish line by five seconds to record her third podium place this month.

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF


Men (10km)

1. Ali Abdallah (Eri) 30:10
2. Simon Arusei (Ken) 30:11
3. Yonas Kifle (Eri) 30:32
4. Carlos Castillejo (Esp) 30:43
5. ‘Chema’ Martínez (Esp) 30:53
6. Antonio Jiménez (Esp) 30:55
7. Eliseo Martín (Esp) 30:57
8. Raúl Caballero (Esp) 31:05
9. Javier Guerra (Esp) 31:24
10. Jouseff Aakou (Mar) 31:25

Women (8 km)

1. Vivian Cheruiyot (Ken) 27:38
2. Alice Chelangat (Ken) 28:03
3. Rosa Morató (Esp) 28:25
4. Xiaoquing Dong (Chi) 28:29
5. Judit Plá (Esp) 28:36
6. Yesenia Centeno (Esp) 28:37
7. Sara Valderas (Esp) 28:46
8. Xiaolin Zhu (Chi) 29:03