Lucy Kabuu of Kenya wins the 2011 Great North Run (© Mark Shearman)
A triumphant return to cross country running of 2006 Commonwealth 10,000m champion Lucy Wangui Kabuu and the crushing defeat of African Cross Country champion John Mwangangi highlighted the 1st KCB/AK National Cross Country weekend meeting that unfolded in Tala, Kangundo, on Saturday (5).
Tala was the opening fixture of the seven meeting annual cross country series which is organised by Athletics Kenya (AK).
In the junior races, Africa Cross Country gold winner, Japheth Korir was forced outside the medals in the men’s 8km, while an entirely new crop of runners came to the fore in the corresponding junior women 6km run.
There were overcast weather conditions at the relatively flat grounds of the Tala Secondary School that hosted the series opener for a second year running.
Kabuu returns with a bang
Since registering a seventh place finish in the 10,000m at the Beijing Olympics, Lucy Wangui Kabuu, who won the 25-lap Commonwealth title in Melbourne in 2006, had almost faded into the memories of the Kenyan distance running scene.
A debilitating Achilles tendon snap and thereafter a maternal break kept the talented Nyeri born runner out of the scene for the better part of three seasons but her abilities were never in doubt on her return.
During the Great North Run on 19 September, only her second race after being gifted daughter Angel, Kabuu reminded everyone of her immense gifts when she tore away from the field to win in 67:06, just missing breaking the symbolic sub-67 barrier.
On Saturday (5) Kabuu took to the fore in the senior women’s 8km race with newcomer Kerine Nenkampi, keeping her company when she surged ahead at the 5km mark. At the bell Kabuu shifted through the gears to distance herself from her opponent, returning triumphant in 26:29.
“I have a lot of catching up to do and I have decided to begin my season early so that I can be in good form when the track season opens. Next year, we have London Olympics and it is important to prepare well,” Kabuu said.
Nenkampi’s emergence as she completed the course in 26:34 for silver was greeted with interest since there are hardly any renowned female Masai runners.
“She is a very promising find and it is encouraging to see Masai women are taking up the sport seriously. We will monitor her progress and assist her to enter in other meetings to encourage more female runners from the region to run,” Athletics Kenya vice-chairman, Paul Mutwii stated.
Jane Muia (26:55) and Tabitha Chelanga (27:01) finished in that order in their own spirited tussle for the bronze medal position.
Kenya Prisons Service athlete, Alice Mogire (27:38), who won the Awendo 10K Road Race in June and finished fifth here last year and home runner, Nancy Nzisa (27:50) who were expected to impose themselves returned home sixth and seventh.
Mwangangi clipped on home turf
Having missed selection for this year’s World Cross Country Championships in Punta Umbria, John Mwangangi made up for the disappointment when he won the senior 12km at the re-launched Africa Cross Country Championships in Johannesburg.
Today during the opening three 2km loops, John Mwangangi, who was running shoulder to shoulder with World junior 1500m titleholder Caleb Mwangangi, another decorated athlete from the region, pressed at the front of the crowded lead pack. However, he was soon to fade when the pack was broken up at 6km.
Nicholas Togom, the younger brother of Matthew Kisorio (who makes his full marathon debut in New York on Sunday) took charge from the 6km mark destroying the field that had 600 starters, to romp home unchallenged 34:55.
Experienced Kenya Defence Forces steeplechaser, Linus Chumba (34:55), a member of his country’s team for the 2008 Edinburgh World Cross, out-sprinted Wilson Too (35:11) to finish second.
Moncton World Juniors gold medallist Caleb stopped the clock at 35:25 for fourth, Kiprono Kurgat was fifth (35:32), with John Mwangangi, a second finisher in Tala last year, registering 35:56 for sixth.
“I’m just praying for my brother to win in New York and I hope one day, I will run such a race. For today, I was a bit nervous being my first senior race but as we went on I felt strong,” said Togom, who won bronze in Johannesburg in the men’s junior 8km.
Another champ bites the dust
Japheth Korir was the first African Cross titleholder to be shown a clean pair of heels when the junior men’s contest, the second race of the day, unfolded.
Korir, who won bronze at the Bydgoszcz World Cross Country Championships in 2010, after finishing fifth a year earlier in Amman, was never in the picture, struggling from the first lap.
Although the favourite failed to execute his role, the race nonetheless resulted in the most enthralling finish as newcomers William Sitonik, Cyprian Kimurgor and Ernest Ngeno set off for top honours at the bell.
The lead changed hands between them with Kimurgor, then Sitonik, then Ngeno seeking to breakaway. At the homestretch, Sitonik charged past the pair and with a sustained burst, arriving at the tape in 22:52 with Kimurgor (22:55) just edging the tiring Ngeno (22:56) for silver.
In the women’s 6km junior race, 2009 World Youth 3000m silver winner, Jackline Chepng’eno (19:45) was toppled by newcomer Mercy Chebogen, a standard seven pupil from Keringet Township Primary School in Molo, the same institution from which comes World Cross junior titleholder, Faith Chepng’etich.
Displaying confident running that belied her inexperience, Chebogen motored away from the field for a clear victory achieved in 19:42 with Chepng’eno playing the bridesmaid in 19:45, ahead of Zipporah Wanjiku (19:48) in third.
The series moves to Chepkoilel Campus in Eldoret next Saturday (12 November).
Mutwiri Mutuota (Capital FM) for IAAF
6km Junior Women
1. Mercy Chebwogen 19:42
2. Jackline Chepng’eno 19:45
3. Zipporah Wanjiru 19:48
4. Sheila Chepng’etich 20:07
5. Eva Cherono 20:13
6. Pauline Eapan 20:19
7. Pauline Njeru 20:27
8. Caroline Chepkemoi 20:30
9. Jackline Chebwogen 20:41
10. Joyce Wajugu 20:45
8km Junior Men
1. William Sitonim 22:52
2. Cyprian Kimurgor 22:55
3. Ernest Ngeno 22:56
4. Japheth Korir 22:58
5. Edwin Mokua 23:08
6. Leonard Barsoton 23:16
7. Elfas Kiplimo 23:25
8. Jonana Maina 23:26
9. Bernard Muia 23:34
10. Peter Matheka 23:36
8km Senior Women
1. Lucy Kabuu 26:29
2. Perine Nenkampi 26:34
3. Jane Muia 26:55
4. Tabitha Chelang’a 27:01
5. Jane Wanja 27:13
6. Alice Mogire 27:38
7. Nancy Nzisa 27:50
8. Mary Gichie 27:50
9. Tabitha Wangari 28:12
10. Maryanne Wangari 28:17
12km Senior Men
1. Nicholas Togom 34:55
2. Linus Chumba 35:01
3. Wilson Too 35:01
4. Caleb Mwangangi 35:25
5. Kiprono Kurgat 35:32
6. John Mwangangi 35:56
7. Mukundi Mwangi 36:05
8. Stephen Arita 36:05
9. Paul Selian 36:14
10. Ezekiel Cherop 36:16