Eventual winner Joshua Cheptegei (second from left, 442) in the senior men's race at the Ugandan Cross Country Championships (© Organisers)
The country’s best athletes turned out for the Ugandan Cross Country Championships in Kampala on Saturday (14) to stake a claim for a place on the host nation’s team for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Kampala 2017.
With the championships doubling up as the official test event for the World Cross, Uganda’s best top distance runners got to try out the course at Kololo Independence Grounds. Joshua Cheptegei won the hotly contested men’s race after breaking away from the field in the second half, while teenager Mercyline Chelangat was a comfortable winner of the women’s race.
Cheptegei, the 2014 world U20 10,000m champion, was content to sit in the middle of a large lead pack led by Peter Kibet on the first two-kilometre lap. Once the exuberant early pace settled down, Cheptegei took up the running and led the field through four kilometres in 11:21 as just seven other men were within four seconds of him.
On the third lap, Cheptegei opened up a 30-metre lead over defending national champion Phillip Kipyeko with Abdallah Mande a further 60 metres behind in third place. Timothy Toroitich, winner of two big international cross-country races in Spain this winter, was fourth at this point, while 2012 Olympic marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich was in seventh.
Thomas Ayeko and Moses Kibet, both of whom won medals in the junior races at past editions of the World Cross Country Championships, were in 13th and 18th place respectively at the end of the third lap but withdrew from the race soon after.
Cheptegei, meanwhile, continued to extend his lead over his pursuers. He completed the 10km race in 29:02, finishing 22 seconds ahead of Kipyeko with Mande taking third place. Toroitich held on to fourth, while Kiprotich moved his way up to fifth place.
Chelangat’s margin of victory in the women’s race was even bigger than Cheptegei’s, even though she made her move on the final lap.
A lead pack of 11 women, led by Rachael Chebet, covered the first lap in 6:21. By the end of the next lap, the pack had been reduced to just four women: Rachael Chebet, Emilly Chebet, Chelangat and Doreen Chesang.
Just Rachael Chebet and Chelangat were left out in front a few kilometres later, but Chelangat moved into the lead on the final lap and managed to shake off her last remaining rival. She crossed the line in 34:41 to finish 35 seconds ahead of Chebet.
Dorcus Ajok, the World University Games 1500m champion, finished strongly to take third place. Chesang held on to fourth place while Doreen Chemutai crossed the line in fifth.
Kiplimo and Chemutai take junior titles
With the junior races held earlier in the afternoon, winners Jacob Kiplimo and Peruth Chemutai set the scene for the day as they respectively won the men’s and women’s races by huge margins.
Kiplimo, the world U20 10,000m bronze medallist, overhauled early leader Maxel Rotich after the first lap. He gradually pulled away from the rest of the field as the race went on and by half way he had a 12-second lead over Abel Chebet.
He went on to win by 29 seconds, covering the 8km course in 23:25. Titus Kwemoi came through in the latter stages to finish second, one second ahead of Victor Kiplangat.
Chemutai, who set a Ugandan U20 steeplechase record of 9:31.03 in the heats of the Rio 2016 Olympics, had Janat Chemusto for company throughout most of the U20 women’s 6km race.
They broke away from the rest of the field during the opening stages and ran side-by-side through the first (6:08) and second (13:18) laps. But Chemutai proved to have the better endurance as Chemusto’s challenge faded on the last lap. Chemutai won in 20:20 with Chemusto finishing 19 seconds adrift, but still comfortably ahead of Esther Chekwemoi in third.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF
Senior men (10km)
1 Joshua Cheptegei 29:02
2 Phillip Kipyeko 29:24
3 Abdallah Kibet Mande 29:40
4 Timothy Toroitich 29:42
5 Stephen Kiprotich 29:46
6 Stephen Kiisa 29:53
7 Fred Musobo 29:55
8 Mande Bushendich 30:04
9 Peter Kibet 30:13
10 Filex Chemonges 30:18
Senior women (10km)
1 Mercyline Chelangat 34:41
2 Rachael Chebet 35:16
3 Dorcus Ajok 35:46
4 Doreen Chesang 35:54
5 Doreen Chemutai 35:56
6 Annet Chebet 36:16
7 Juliet Chekwel 36:38
8 Stella Chesang 36:46
9 Prim Twikirize 37:00
10 Sarah Akiror 37:03
1 Jacob Kiplimo 23:25
2 Titus Kwemoi 23:53
3 Victor Kiplangat 23:54
4 Elisha Chemutai 24:03
5 Kevin Kibet 24:04
1 Peruth Chemutai 20:20
2 Janat Chemusto 20:39
3 Esther Chekwemoi 21:08
4 Sarah Chelangat 21:20
5 Scarlett Chemos 22:0