Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon of Kenya in action in the IAAF World Cross Country Championships women junior's race (© Getty Images)
When Ugandan Stephen Kiprotich raided the Kenyan armoury at the London Olympics men’s marathon to escape with the gold, it was justifiably ranked among the greatest upsets of the Games.
On Saturday (5), his compatriot Soyekwo Kibet turned up at the spiritual home of Kenyan athletics – Eldoret – and toppled a stellar field comprising of no less than 2010 World cross-country champion Joseph Ebuya and 2011 World half-marathon winner Wilson Kiprop in their own backyard in the men’s 12km long race to leave gathered locals at Eldoret Polytechnic Grounds utterly stunned.
The occasion was the sixth and penultimate KCB/AK National Cross Country Series and with more than 1000 entrants taking part across the four races on the cards, Eldoret lived up to its reputation as the ‘running capital of the world’ by serving up the best-attended leg of the series thus far.
Elsewhere, World junior cross-country champion Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon returned to the top of the podium after being forced down to fifth at the preceding meet in Embu (December 22) as Kiprono Bett scored his second victory of the series in the corresponding junior men’s 8km run.
Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi, the 2011 All-Africa Games Steeplechase champion, held off 2010 World Cross fourth-place finisher Lineth Chepkirui in the women’s 8km senior race to round off the highly competitive meet that thrilled the watching spectators to no end.
Ugandan assault Mark II
The spectre of the London Olympics mugging act on the Kenyan cream returned in eerie fashion when Soyekwo Kibet – who hails from Bukwo, Northern Uganda, a few miles from double Commonwealth champion Moses Kipsiro – found the legs to outsprint the seasoned local challenge in the men’s 12km showstopper.
Competing in ideal conditions at the high elevation that is Eldoret, Kibet – who trains at the Global Sports Communications Camp in Kaptagat run by Federico Rosa – lined up for the start expecting stiff competition, but in a thrilling finale he arrived at the tape with 34:45 on the clock ahead of the hard-chasing Julius Kogo.
“We have to watch out for him in Poland because the way he was able to sprint for the finish here left us all worried about the Ugandan challenge since they are training here among us and are learning how we run,” Athletics Kenya relations officer Peter Angwenyi wistfully noted after watching Kibet trounced the field.
Kogo, a road-running specialist with a 61:47 career best in the half marathon, led the challengers home in 35:00 with the welcome sight of a now fit Kiprop, who dropped out of the 10,000m at the London Olympics with a recurrent knee injury, completing the podium in 35:21.
Ebuya, who has also struggled with injury since his triumph in Bydgoszcz 2010, placed just outside the podium in 35:30, just ahead of Richard Sigei (35:40).
In the women’s senior 8km long race, Jepkemoi outdueled Chepkirui – who is only just rediscovering her form after a spell on the side-lines – to take the honours in a dead-heat time of 26:58 in a frenetic conclusion to the race.
Chepngetich Kipyegon keeps the faith
Having been pushed down the finishing order in Embu the last time out, World junior champion on the track and cross-country Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon dispelled any notions she would not be a factor in the race for Bydgoszcz tickets when she clinically dispatched the starters in the junior women’s 6km event.
In what has developed to be a battle among the “Chepngetich trio” for most of the series, namesake Roseline was on the receiving end of the 1500m specialist who made her Olympic debut in London. Kipyegon’s finishing surge carried her across the tape in 20:24 with the bridesmaid two seconds in arrears.
Agnes Chebet, who was second in Embu, once again lined up in the rostrum in third (20:40) ahead of the third Chepngetich, Sheila (20:45), a sixth-place finisher in the 1500m at the 2011 IAAF World Youth Championships.
In the corresponding junior men’s 8km, Emmanuel Kiprono Bett put together a devastating turn of pace over the last 600m to secure victory, stopping the clock in 23:21.
Bett, a younger brother of 2008 World junior 10,000m champion Josphat, sealed his second successive win after he was chased all the way to the line by Alex Mutiso. But on this occasion he secured top honours with some room to spare over Ronald Chebore (23:25) in second.
Saturday (12) witnesses the culmination of the series that started in Nyahururu on November 3 with the series jackpot of $14,118 (Ksh1.2m) being shared out among the winners of the respective categories in Kericho. Peter Matelong, the winner at Embu and Nyahururu, is the outright bet to earn the $3,529 series jackpot should he place among the top six senior men in Kericho.
Emily Chebet, the 2010 World cross-country champion who has racked up three victories in the series, is head and shoulders above the competition in the jackpot race in the senior women’s category.
With her victory in Eldoret, Kipyegon has joined the junior women’s jackpot mix that also includes fellow Barcelona gold medal-winner Mercy Chebwogen who has triumphed twice. In the junior men’s stakes, Moses Mukono, a three-time winner this season, will have Eldoret winner Kiprono for company.
Mutwiri Mutuota (Capital FM) for the IAAF
Leading results (all KEN unless stated)
SENIOR MEN’S 12km
1 Soyekwo Kibet (UGA) 34:45
2 Julius Kogo 35:00
3 Wilson Kiprop 35:21
4 Joseph Ebuya 35:31
5 Richard Sigei 35:40
6 Abraham Tamo 35:40
SENIOR WOMEN’S 8km
1 Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi 26:58
2 Lineth Chepkirui 26:58
3 Beatrice Chepkemoi 26:59
4 Georgina Rono 27:02
5 Edith Chelimo 27:11
6 Gladys Kipsoi 27:20
JUNIOR MEN’S 8km
1 Emmanuel Kiprono Bett 23:21
2 Ronald Chebore 23:25
3 Isaac Langat 23:33
4 Emmanuel Bor 23:42
5 Bernard Kipkemoi 23:46
JUNIOR WOMEN’S 6km
1 Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon 20:24
2 Roseline Chepngetich 20:26
3 Agnes Chebet 20:40
4 Sheila Chepngetich Keter 20:44
5 Caroline Chepkoech 20:48