Aprot finally delivers gold as Kenya rules AXC

African 10000m women’s champion Alice Aprot crowned her record fourth successive CAA Africa Cross Country Championships appearance with her first top medal as Kenya unleashed a devastating show of might that swept all eight gold medals on offer in Yaoundé, Cameroon on Saturday.

Aprot, 24, who went to the biennial continental cross country showpiece as the national titleholder, was the only Kenyan to fulfil her favourite role with James Rungaru, Miriam Cherop and Isaac Kipsang taking surprise honours in the men’s senior 10km, women junior 6km and men junior 8km races.

Saturday’s imposing performance meant Kenya has claimed the overall title in all four editions of the event started in 2011 to fill the gap year in the biennial IAAF World Cross Country Championships. The country also won its one-off ancestor in 1985 that was held in Nairobi.

Aprot, 24, the younger sister of the 2010 World Cross champion, Joseph Ebuya, delivered on her promise to return home with the crown when she led compatriots Sheila Chepkurui and Beatrice Mutai to the podium sweep in the women’s 10km long race, stopping the clock at 29:52.

In Aprot’s slipstream, Chepkurui, the 2005 World Youth champion, settled for the second medal in 30:44 while Mutai enjoyed a clear cushion from Ethiopia’s fourth placed Dida Dera (31:13) in the bronze position with 31:08.

The new queen of Africa cross country running won bronze at the last edition in Kampala, Uganda, two years ago having finished outside the rostrum at her first and second appearances in 2011 and 12 as a junior.

Daisy Jepkemei (31:29), Nancy Nzisa (31:30) and Pauline Kaveke (31:43), the women’s captain followed each other home in fifth, sixth and seventh to seal an outstanding cross country team performance.

-Rungaru shocker-

Ahead of the Yaoundé Africa Cross, James Gitahi Rungaru, 23, featured nowhere in the probable winners of the Holy Grail of cross country running, the men’s long race title having finished sixth at the February 13 IAAF Permit/Athletics Kenya National Cross Country Championships.

However, the Rungaru who first competed for Kenya at the 2011 World Cross Country Championships in Punta Umbria, Spain where he finished sixth in the junior race, held off the spirited charge from Uganda’s seasoned cross athlete, Phillip Kipyeko to clinch the men 10km title by only a second with the clocks returning 26:34 against 26:35.

Kenya fielded a ‘B-team’ in this event with the World Cross champion, Geoffrey Kipsang, World Cross silver medallist, Bedan Karoki who ran to the 1-2 at the nationals as well as defending African cross champion, Leonard Barsoton who followed them in third opting to skip Yaoundé.

Charles Mneria, who was given wildcard entry to the team, earned his nation a first medal when he took bronze in 26:46 as team captain, Cleophas Ngetich (26:52) and Geoffrey Koech (27:09) occupied the next two positions to bag Kenya the team title with a score of 13.

Having been forced to accept bronze at the nationals by step brothers, Nicholas Kiplangat who took the honours and 2014 Africa Cross junior medallist, Andrew Lorot, Isaac Kipsang who schools with the pair at Nairobi’s Riruta Satellite Secondary destroyed the field and his more established colleagues to soar to the junior men 8km title.

It was Kipsang’s biggest career victory thus far after charging through the course like a wounded buffalo to complete a crushing 21:33 victory, a massive 11 seconds ahead of compatriot Ronald Kiprotich (21:44) who took the second medal as Eritrean athlete, Aron Kiple (21:48) prevented the podium shut out.

The team title was nonetheless sealed when Anthony Kiptoo (21:56) and the fancied siblings Lorot (21:59) and Kiplangat (22:11) rounded the top five in that order.

The opening race of the day saw Kenya deliver a devastating performance when Miriam Cherop led her compatriots to score the perfect 10 with a 1-2-3-4 sweep that laid the platform for another stirring performance that comes at a time when the country is facing the threat of an international ban for the doping menace.

Cherop who finished second at the nationals broke from the field to lead the Kenyan procession with a 18:31 victory, as the spirited battle for silver ended in favour of Gloria Kite (18:39) who edged out Wilfred Mbithe by a second.

Lucy Cheruiyot (18:42) finished just outside the medals to bag the first team title of the day for Kenya that had the distinction of having her national anthem played eight times over Yaoundé to celebrate yet another commanding demonstration of the long-established distance running domination.

The triumphant team returns home on Sunday afternoon.

LEADING RESULTS (All Kenyan unless indicated)

Junior women 6km

  1. Miriam Cherop 18:31
  2. Gloria Kite 18:39
  3. Wilfred Mbithe 18:40
  4. Lucy Cheruiyot 18:42
  5. Dekobo Haylemariyam (ETH) 18:52
  6. Tersit Desalgn (ETH) 19:02
  7. Zerfie Limineh (ETH) 19:03
  8. Tiblet Getaneth (ETH) 19:08
  9. Kalkidan Fenite (ETH) 19:24
  10. Lilian Kasait 19:48

Junior men 8km

  1. Isaac Kipsang 21:33
  2. Ronald Kiprotich 21:44
  3. Aron Kiple (ERI) 21:48
  4. Anthony Kiptoo 21:56
  5. Andrew Lorot 21:59
  6. Nickson Kiplangat 22:11
  7. Mosisa Tefera (ETH) 22:15
  8. Solomon Berihum (ETH) 22:16
  9. Willy Kwemoi 22:32
  10. Nega Gurmessa (ETH) 22:36

Senior women 10km

  1. Alice Aprot 29:52
  2. Sheila Chepkurui 30:44
  3. Beatrice Mutai 31:08
  4. Dida Dera 31:13
  5. Daisy Jepkemei 31:29
  6. Nancy Nzisa 31:30
  7. Pauline Kaveke 31:43
  8. Kidsanalema Gebremedhin (ETH) 31:51
  9. Alamerew Enathanesh (ETH) 32:10
  10. Stella Chesang (UGA) 32:42

Senior men 10km

  1. James Rungaru 26:34
  2. Phillip Kipyeko (UGA) 26:35
  3. Charles Mneria 26:46
  4. Cleophas Ngetich 26:52
  5. Geoffrey Koech 27:09
  6. Tamire Getaneh (ETH) 27:13
  7. Phillip Lagat 27:13
  8. Mande Abdallah (UGA) 27:15
  9. Daniel Rotich (UGA) 27:38
  10. Tesfye Tuemay (ETH) 27:48