Commanding Kenya top of Africa once again
Coach John Kimetto is satisfied with Team Kenya’s performance in the fifth edition of the Africa Cross Country Championships which concluded in Chlef, Algeria on Saturday night.
Kenya was at her dominance best once again, topping the medal table with eight medals; three gold, four silver and a bronze, ahead of Ethiopia who finished second with five medals (two gold, silver and two bronze), Uganda and Morocco who won a team bronze each.
A delighted Kimetto added that the team fought hard to deliver despite experiencing harsh weather conditions characterised by heavy rains, low temperatures of 11 degrees, wind and mud.
“The athletes fought hard to deliver. It rained over night and again just before the race. This was the toughest circuit but my teams were patient and tactical, “he said. “Though we lost the junior women individual title we won a team gold medal that had evaded us for years. We also won a silver medal in the mixed relay. I want to thank the Government, Athletics Kenya and Kenyans for the support you gave us.”
During the single-day competition, IAAF World Cross Country under-20 bronze medalist Celliphine Chespol and Alfred Barkach secured a Kenyan double in the 10km senior race.
Chepsol, the IAAF World U-18, 2000m steeplechase champion had a very eventful competition that almost won her a maiden senior title.
Chespol, who is still just 18 years old, was part of a large lead pack of 16 women that covered the first two-kilometre lap in 7:37minutes. The group had been reduced to 13 women by the end of the second lap, with Ethiopia’s Guangzhou marathon champion Rahma Tusa Chota leading the group through in 14:39minutes.
Of the 10 women still in the lead pack at the end of the third lap in 21:36, six of them were Kenyan. Chespol had compatriots Margaret Chelimo, Rosemary Njeri, Stacy Ndiwa, Perine Nengampi and Sandra Chebet for company as they ran alongside Ethiopian trio Chota, Yeshi Kalayu Chekole and Enatnesh Alamirew and Uganda’s Stella Chesang.
But Chespol didn’t hang around for much longer and opened up a 17-second lead on the fourth lap.
Although Chespol’s leading margin was reduced to just three seconds on the final lap, she did enough to win, clocking 35:10minutes for the 10km event. Chelimo came through for second place in 35:13 with Chekole taking third in 35:26.
Njeri faded in the closing stages, but Ndiwa and Chebet finished fourth and sixth respectively, securing the team title for Kenya.
In the senior men’s race-which was a bit faster, a pack of about 29 men covered the first lap in 6:39; there were still 19 men in contention by the end of the second lap, reached in 12:49, as Kenya’s Emmanuel Bor led Ugandan duo Thomas Ayeko and Philip Kipyeko.
After a short while Alfred Barkach and Julius Kogo suddenly emerged as the leading Kenyan contenders as they joined Uganda’s Ayeko and Kipyeko and Ethiopian Cross-Country champion Enyew Mekonnen to form a breakaway lead pack.
Kipyeko was the first of the quintet to fall behind, leaving four men to battle it out for three medals as they entered the final lap. Mekonnen was ultimately unable to keep up with his opponents; in the frantic surge for the finish line, Barkach got the better of Kogo and Ayeko to take the title in 30:47.
Kogo and Ayeko were given the same time with Kogo being awarded the silver and Ayeko the bronze.
With Bor and John Chepkwony finishing in the top seven, Kenya once again picked up the team title. Uganda earned team silver, while Eritrea took bronze ahead of Ethiopia.
Following his convincing defeat at the recent Kenyan Cross Country Championships, Rhonex Kipruto gained revenge on compatriot Stanley Waithaka to take the Under 20 title in Chlef.
The race played into the hands of the big kickers. 16 men were still in the lead pack at half way and nine of those remained in the group as they approached the final lap. Kipruto proved to have the best strength, though, and opened up a five-second gap on Waithaka by the finish line, winning in 25:01.
Ethiopia’s Solomon Berihu took bronze in 25:08, while Kenya picked up another gold medal in the team contest.
Girmawit Gebregziabher may be a relative newcomer, but she is fast making a name for herself.
In the U20 women’s race in Chlef, the Ethiopian moved to the front of the lead pack at roughly half way, then went on to create a 14-second winning margin by the end, crossing the line in 20:40.
Just as she had done at the Ethiopian Cross Country Championships last month, teammate Tsige Gebreselama finished second to Gebregziabher while Kenya’s Hellen Ekalale was one second in arrears, taking bronze in 20:55.
Kenya may have missed out on individual honours in this race, but – with 18 points to Ethiopia’s 19 – they narrowly won team gold.
Team Kenya is expected to arrive at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Monday at 1pm.
U20 BOYS (8KM
Ronex Kipruto KEN 25:01
Stanley Waithaka KEN 25:06
Solomon Berihu Weldeselassie ETH 25:08
Berehanu Wendim Tsegu ETH 25:11, 5.
Milkesa Mengesha Tolosa ETH 25:13, 6.
Vincent Kipkemoi Ngetich KEN 25:14
U20 GIRLS (6KM)
- Girmawit Gebregziabher Gebru ETH 19:44
- Tsige Gebreselama Gebrerufal ETH 19:58
- Hellen Ekalale KEN 19:59
- Agnes Jebet KEN 20:06
- Roselidah Jepketer KEN 20:08
SENIOR 10 KM
- Alfred Barkach KEN 30:47
- Julius Kogo KEN 30:47
- Thomas Ayeko UGA 30:47
- Enyew Mekonnen ETH 31:01
- Emmanuel Bor KEN 31:14
- Philip Kipyeko UGA 31:19
- Celliphine Chespol KEN 35:10
- Margaret Chelimo KEN 35:13
- Yeshi Kalayy Chekole ETH 35:26
- Stacy Ndiwa KEN 35:27
- Stella Chesang UGA 35:30
- Sandra Chebet KEN 35:
- Reports by IAAF.org and Charity Wanja