Bedan Karoki leads the senior men's race (© David Ogeka / Photo Run)
World cross-country silver medallist Bedan Karoki defeated an impressive field to win the senior men’s 10km at the Discovery Cross Country Championships in Eldoret, Kenya, on Sunday (31).
The race was billed as a head-to-head between Karoki and the man who beat him in Guiyang last March, Geoffrey Kamworor, and this narrative looked to be playing out as they pushed the pace through the halfway point in a manner not too dissimilar to the World Cross Country Championships.
However, Kamworor – who looked in great shape when he won the Kenya Police Cross Country Championships by more than 30 seconds a fortnight ago – fell off the pace just after the halfway point and later dropped out.
With Kamworor out of contention, Karoki eased to a comfortable victory in 28:53 with 2012 African cross-country champion Clement Langat second in 29:15 and Stanley Kipchirchir third in 29:33.
Kamworor wasn’t the only big name to find the going difficult; two-time world 10,000m bronze medallist Paul Tanui finished outside the top 20 while three-time world 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop also dropped out.
The women’s senior race didn’t go to form as little-known Violah Jepchumba upset a stellar field including two medallists from the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015.
Jepchumba stopped the clock at 25:56 to defeat Gladys Chesire – a 30:41 performer over 10km on the roads – by one second, while Cynthia Limo was third in 26:03, just a fortnight after finishing second at the Houston Half Marathon in 1:06:41.
Other names behind Jepchumba included world marathon silver medallist Helah Kiprop in fourth in 26:08, 2014 New York Marathon runner-up Jemima Sumgong in fifth in 26:16, and world steeplechase champion Hyvin Kiyeng in sixth in 26:21.
In the junior women's 6km, Sandra Chebet looked on course for another dominant victory at under-20 level but the 18-year-old, who led by 40 seconds with 150 metres remaining, suddenly collapsed.
Chebet got up to finish but she was caught on the line by Roselida Chepketer who won by one second in 20:26.
In another close finish in the junior men's 8km, Matthew Kiptanui outsprinted Isaac Kipsang, 23:22 to 23:23.
Kipsang and Chepkirui prevail in Nyahururu
Emmanuel Kipsang showed good form in the build-up to the Kenyan Cross Country Championships in Nairobi in two weeks’ time by winning the Kenya Defence Forces Cross Country Trials on Saturday (29).
Kipsang, who represented Kenya over 5000m at the IAAF World Championships last summer, took the lead after the completion of the first lap and comfortably won the 10km race in 30:15, coming home 12 seconds ahead of Hilary Kering.
“I knew I didn’t have the finishing power, so I had to take the lead early to be in a safe position,” Kipsang told local reporters.
Eleven years after winning the world youth 1500m title at the age of 14, Sheila Chepkirui beat a strong field in the women’s race, which was also staged over 10km, in 35:25.
Chepkirui, who hasn’t represented Kenya in an international competition since 2009, defeated renowned internationals Veronica Nyaruai and Hellen Obiri, who were second and third respectively in 35:38 and 35:40.
The Kenya Defence Forces Cross Country Championships were scheduled to take place last Friday but the event was called off in respect of the 60 Kenyan soldiers who were killed in Somalia.
At the South Rift Regional Cross Country Championships in Laikipia on Saturday, Geoffrey Koech won the senior men’s 10km race in 29:56 ahead of Julius Gitahi (30:03) and Philip Langat (30:13).
Beatrice Mutai, the older sister of Faith Kipyegon, won the women’s race in 35:28 ahead of near veteran Joan Ayabei, second in 35:49, who took bronze in the junior race at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships all the way back in 1996.
At the Nairobi Regional Cross Country Championships on Saturday, Patrick Mutunga and Joyline Chelangat shared the spoils in the senior 10km races while world youth 2000m steeplechase champion Celphine Cheptek scored a noteworthy win in the junior women’s 6km race.
Ethiopians dominate in San Sebastian
Imane Merga and Hiwot Ayalew secured the first Ethiopian double at the Cross Internacional de San Sebastian since 1993 when Fita Bayissa and Luchia Yishak won the elite races.
Merga, the 2011 world cross-country champion, relied on his renowned sprint finish on the local horse racing course to win the 10.14km senior men’s race in 29:00, three seconds ahead of Kenyan youngster Dominic Kiptarus. Eritrea’s Goitom Kifle completed the podium in 29:07 while Antonio Abadia was a good, albeit distant, fourth on home soil in 29:51.
In the senior women’s race, over 8.14km, Ayalew took a clear-cut win ahead of compatriot Belaynesh Oljira. The steeplechaser won in 26:57 with Oljira finishing some 14 seconds in arrears.
Another steeplechaser, European bronze medallist Diana Martin, finished third in 27:33.
Merga and Ayalew added their names at the 61st edition of the race to an illustrious roll of honour which includes running legends such as Emil Zatopek, Alain Mimoun, Mamo Wolde, Carlos Lopes, Rosa Mota, John Ngugi, Haile Gebrselassie and Derartu Tulu.
Steven Mills (with assistance from Kip Evans) for the IAAF