Conseslus Kipruto wins the senior men's race in Antrim (© Mark Shearman)
Conseslus Kipruto and Caroline Chepkoech Kipkirui claimed the men’s and women’s titles respectively at the Antrim International Cross Country on Saturday (14) to achieve the first Kenyan double at the IAAF Cross Country Permit meeting since 2002.
Kipruto, the Olympic steeplechase champion, crossed the line in 24:36 to finish one second ahead of Bahrain's Abraham Cheroben in a sprint finish. Britain’s Andy Vernon was 20 seconds behind the winner in third.
Britain’s Lachlan Oates held the lead after the first lap, with Kipruto, Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali and Vernon in pursuit.
Cheroben, who contested the 10,000m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and Kipruto formed a breakaway on the second lap, and kicked on further to hold the lead placings until the end, with Kipruto finishing strongly in the final 200 metres.
Kipruto knew he had the legs to finish the race strongly. “When someone was going to kick, I know that I am going to kick,” he said. “On the last lap I knew I was going to win because of the gap. I was waiting for the kick; I am very good at that.”
The two-time world silver medallist always expected a strong challenge from Vernon. “On every lap the English people were cheering the English guy,” said Kipruto. “It was clear that he was fighting and I like that. He was very tough.”
Snow and ice lingered in much of Northern Ireland throughout the week, but Kipruto was thankful that those conditions didn't prevail for this event.
“I always know the conditions when in Europe,” he said. “I always fear when it is snowing, but the rain is OK.”
Kipruto’s fellow Kenyan Caroline Chepkoech Kipkirui was convincing from the second lap until the end to take the women’s title in 18:53 on her first visit to Greenmount.
Kipkirui, who in 2011 won African junior titles at 5000m and cross-country, had a convincing 42 seconds to spare as she finished comfortably ahead of Ethiopian duo Gotytom Gebreslase and Birtukan Adamu.
“On the second lap I saw that there was nobody following me,” said Kipkirui, who was pleased with her victory. “I’ll soon head back to Kenya to prepare for the World Cross Country.”
Ireland’s Fionnuala McCormack, a winner in Antrim in 2012 and 2013, was fourth in 19:39.
Coilin Duffy for the IAAF
1 Conseslus Kipruto (KEN) 24:36
2 Abraham Cheroben (BRN) 24:37
3 Andy Vernon (GBR) 24:56
4 Hassan Chahdi (FRA) 25:20
5 Jonathan Taylor (GBR) 25:27
6 Lachlan Oates (GBR) 25:54
7 Jamie Crowe (GBR) 25:58
8 Matthew Bowser (GBR) 26:03
9 Owain Jones (GBR) 26:34
10 Derek Hawkins (GBR) 26:14
1 Caroline Chepkoech Kipkirui (KEN) 18:53
2 Gotytom Gebreslase (ETH) 19:35
3 Birtukan Adamu (ETH) 19:38
4 Fionnuala McCormack (IRL) 19:39
5 Pippa Woolven (GBR) 19:50
6 Claire Duck (GBR) 19:57
7 Anculta Bobocel (ROU) 20:08
8 Louise Small (GBR) 20:10
9 Haftamnesh Tesfay (ETH) 20:22
10 Morag MacLarty (GBR) 20:25