Timothy Cheruiyot (28) wins the men's race in Antrim (© Mark Shearman)
World 1500m silver medallist Timothy Cheruiyot and fellow Kenyan Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi took top honours at the 41st Antrim International Cross Country in Greenmount on Saturday (6), the first IAAF Cross Country Permit meeting of 2018.
On a day of calm and mild weather conditions at Greenmount's College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise, Cheruiyot improved upon his third-place finish from 2016. The Kenyan 1500m champion produced an excellent display to win by milliseconds from Ethiopia’s Mogos Tuemay.
Cheruiyot led a lead group of seven after the opening lap, with Antrim regular Andy Vernon in second spot, and Morocco’s world steeplechase silver medallist Soufiane Elbakkali in third. That lead group was cut to six at the end of the second lap with Tuemay moving into second.
The top four remained the same for the duration of the race, with Cheruiyot ahead of Tuemay, Elbakkali in third and Vernon in fourth. In a sprint for the line, Cheruiyot managed to just hold off Tuemay for the victory with both athletes timed at 23:12.
“The course was OK; it wasn't like it was in 2016. It was much better,” said Cheruiyot, the IAAF Diamond League 1500m champion. “Today was good. I like coming here, this was my third time.
“I was very confident at the end. It was difficult, though, with the muddy conditions.”
Cheruiyot’s focus will now turn to Kenya’s trials next month for the Commonwealth Games.
“I won't race before then,” he said. “I hope to go to the Commonwealth Games.”
Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi became the third different Kenyan in as many years to win the women’s race in Antrim, finishing just one second ahead of Ethiopia’s Fotyen Tesfay in 19:55.
Kipkemboi was in the lead group throughout the 5.4km race and edged an early lead ahead of Ethiopia’s Alemitu Hawi and two-time Antrim winner Fionnuala McCormack.
McCormack took a brief lead at the end of the first lap with Kipkemboi pushed to second spot. In a slower paced second lap, Tesfay took first spot, with the lead group now at five, and Kipkemboi sitting comfortably in second.
Kipkemboi moved in front midway through the final lap, and edged the lead until the end in a tight finish.
“The race was good,” said Chelimo Kipkemboi, who finished fifth over 5000m at the IAAF World Championships London 2017. “The climate here is winter and windy, while at home it's summer and it is sunny.
“It was tough, but I am happy; this will be my last cross-country race in Europe. I've run three now in the build-up to the Commonwealth Games. I have trials for the Games next month and I will run in the 5000.”
Bahrain's Bontu Edao Rebitu finished third in 19:59. Double European cross-country champion McCormack, who had been in touching distance throughout, took sixth spot in 20:22, 63 seconds and four places ahead of her younger sister Una Britton.
Cóilín Duffy for the IAAF
1 Timothy Cheruiyot (KEN) 23:12
2 Mogos Tuemay (ETH) 23:12
3 Soufiane Elbakkali (MAR) 23:32
4 Andy Vernon (GBR) 23:41
5 Kristian Mark Jones (GBR) 23:45
6 Trevor Dunbar (USA) 24:12
1 Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi (KEN) 19:55
2 Fotyen Tesfay (ETH) 19:56
3 Bontu Edao Rebitu (BRN) 19:59
4 Verity Ockenden (GBR) 20:17
5 Alemitu Hawi (ETH) 20:17
6 Fionnuala McCormack (IRL) 20:22