Kenya's Mercy Cherono winning at the Cross Internacional de Venta de Banos (© Alfambra Fundación ANOC)
World 5000m silver medallist Mercy Cherono was a distant third in her first race since the track season in Atapuerca last month, but the 22-year-old looked race sharp in taking top honours at the 'Cross Internacional de Venta de Banos' on Sunday (15).
It was a noteworthy victory for Cherono in the 34th edition of the race, as she became the first runner to take back-to-back victories in the small town situated just to the north of Valladolid in northern Spain since Ana Isabel Alonso in 1987.
The Kenyan covered the 6.775km course in 23:08 and she finished three seconds ahead of Ethiopia's Ababel Yeshaneh, who posted a creditable 30:35.91 10,000m PB this summer and placed ninth in the same event at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow.
Gorreti Jepkoech edged out in-form Rebecca Cheptegei from Uganda for third while Iris Fuentes-Pila was the first Spaniard to cross the line in fifth, 32 seconds behind the winner.
Two Kenyans, albeit from contrasting backgrounds, battled it out for top honours in the men's race which was decided in a sprint finish.
Cyprian Kotut, a sub-one hour half-marathon runner, made a stellar debut in what appeared to be his first international cross-country race as he defeated steeplechase specialist Jairus Birech by one second, although the initial results gave the two Kenyans an identical time.
Kotut and Birech, who were later credited with times of 31:58 and 31:59 respectively for the 10.575km course, finished a long way ahead of the first domestic runner Ivan Fernandez, who finished third in 32:32.
Kotut became the fifth successive Kenyan winner of the men's race and he joins an illustrious list of past champions as the roll of honour of this race includes Fita Bayissa (1993), Sileshi Sihine (2002-03) and Kenenisa Bekele (2004).
Newly crowned European cross-country champion Alemayehu Bezabeh from Spain opted to compete in a largely domestic affair in Yecla and as expected, the 27-year-old took the spoils at the 31st edition of the 'Cross Nacional Fiestas de la Virgen' on Sunday (15).
The manner of Bezabeh's victory was in contrast to his front-running performance in Belgrade last weekend as he drew on his sprint finish to defeat Antonio David Jimenez over the 10km course, 30:49 to 30:50, with Ouais Zitane from Morocco third in 31:09.
Lidia Rodriguez became the first woman to score three victories in succession as she easily prevailed in the 6km race in 20:33, winning by 13 seconds ahead of Marisa Casanueva.
More Kenyan success in France
Paul Melly led a Kenyan sweep in the men's race at the 'Cross Marseille Mediterranee' although Laila Traby, who runs for a local club, defeated a solid international field on home soil in the women's race on the south coast of France on Sunday (15).
Salim Saiti was the winner of the men's 9.85km race at the 70th edition of the 'Cross Jean Vilet' in Lieven in 29:45 while Ethiopia's Meseret Taye was the first woman to finish in a 5.9km race where the senior women raced alongside the junior men.
Taye finished seventh and was 1:29 behind the winner.
Joseph Gray and Laura Thweatt took the individual victories on a snow-laden course at the USATF Club Cross Championships held in Bend, Oregon on Saturday (14).
Gray, who is more renowned for his exploits as a trail runner, won the men's 10km race in 31:05 by six seconds with Champions League Athletic Performance taking top honours in the team race.
Thweatt's victory was much more clear-cut as she won the 6km race by 20 seconds with Beasts TC, who had three finishers in the top seven, winning the team race on their first attempt.
Obiri dominates in Embu
World 1500m bronze medallist Hellen Obiri showed good early-season endurance as she stepped up in distance to dominate the senior 8km race at the fourth leg of the KCB/AK Cross Country Series in Embu on Saturday (14).
Obiri crossed the line in 26:50, finishing nine seconds ahead of 20-year-old Jackline Chepngeno with Beatrice Mutai, a non-scoring member of Kenya's gold medal-winning team at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships this year, third in 27:03.
While the senior race went largely to form, there was a mild surprise in the junior 6km race as World junior and African 3000m champion Mercy Chepwogen was beaten by Nancy Nzisa, who clocked 20:19 to win by 11 seconds.
Frederick Musyoki won the men's 12km race in 36:09 ahead of Nelson Kosgei in 36:14 while Katui Muia upset African junior 5000m champion Moses Mukono in the junior 8km race, 23:27 to 23:33.
Steven Mills for the IAAF