Kenya dominated the African Cross Country Championships held Sunday (18) in Cape Town, South Africa, where athletes from 19 countries competed over multiples of the 2km lap around Koerboom Park.
A massive group of around 40 runners held together for the initial laps of the Senior men’s 12km with Clement Langat, who finished sixth in the 2011 World Cross country championships, leading the field through 2km in five minutes 55 seconds before dropping back in the pack for subsequent laps.
The Kenyan, Eritrean and Ethiopian teams asked and gave no quarter on the natural undulations and varied terrain of the park as Langat temporarily eased off the gas for the second lap.
As expected Teklemariam Medhin was a major player injecting an increase in pace during the fourth lap to take the race through 8km in 23:57.
The Eritrean athlete, who has competed at the last six World Championships, used his experience to keep the lead through to the final lap where he and Langat had opened a small but critical lead on the field.
The screws gradually tightened as the duo sprinted towards the line with Langat easing a 30 metre advantage to take the tape in 35:43.
Ethiopian Atsedu Tesfay, who completed the podium in 36:14, was followed in close procession by Langat’s team-mates Timothy Kiptoo and Vincent Chepkok, but Kenya had to wait for a further eight finishers before Frederick Ndunge secured the team prize ahead of Eritrea and Ethiopia.
Lungisa Mdadelwa gave the home crowd some thing to cheer about finishing 12th with Elroy Galant, who ran a South African 3000m indoor record in Istanbul the previous weekend, 14th and assisting the team to fifth out of eight teams. Mdadelwa produced the best South African placing of the day.
The Kenyan and Ethiopian teams were also to the fore in the Women’s 8km where there was little to choose between the leaders in the first half.
A blanket could have covered the Kenyan foursome for much of the race. Joyce Chepkirui and Margaret Muriuki shared the lead into the final straight with 2010 World Cross country champion Emily Chebet and Esther Ndiema completing the tightly packed quartet who made a clean sweep of the podium and team awards. The top 11 finished within one minute of Chepkirui’s 27:04 winning time.
Ethiopians, led by Balaynesh Jemama, filled the next five places while it required only 14 finishers to determine the top three teams.
It was a similar tale in the Junior Women 6km, which saw Faith Kipyegon take the honours in 19:32 and pull colleagues Agnes Tirop and Nancy Chepkwemoi onto the podium. However without a fourth member it was Ethiopia, led by Ruti Sora, who claimed their only team victory of the day.
Muktar Awel gave Ethiopia their only individual gold of the championships edging the Kenyan duo of Japhet Korir and Justine Cheruiyot in the Junior Men’s 8km, but it wasn’t sufficient to prevent the Kenyan’s who finished 2, 3, 5 and 7, from achieving a sweep of the team titles. The Ethiopian quartet was only 1 point and 22 seconds adrift, with Eritrea completing the team podium.
Norrie Williamson for the IAAF