Brenda Chebet anchors Kenya to gold in the mixed relay in Bathurst (© Getty Images)
They came, they ran, they conquered.
The Kenyan quartet of Emmanuel Wanyonyi, Mirriam Cherop, Daniel Kyumbe Munguti and Brenda Chebet avenged their country’s defeat from four years ago and regained the mixed relay title at the World Athletics Cross Country Championships Bathurst 23.
It didn’t come easy, though, with South Africa and Australia both putting up a good fight on the first three legs. Arch rivals Ethiopia, meanwhile, eventually came through to finish runner-up to Kenya with host nation Australia earning a well-received bronze medal.
Most eyes were on Australia’s Commonwealth 1500m champion Ollie Hoare, Kenya’s 2021 world U20 800m champion Wanyonyi and Ethiopia’s African 1500m bronze medallist Adihana Kasaye, But as athletes entered the vineyard section of the course, it was South Africa’s Commonwealth finalist Ryan Mphahlele who led the pack.
Wanyonyi then came back and moved past Mphahlele into the lead, but the South African had saved enough for a final burst and ended the first stage in pole position. Hoare came through in third, six seconds behind the leading two teams, with Kasaye a further second in arrears.
Mirriam Cherop, the 2016 African U20 cross-country champion, gave Kenya a comfortable lead at the start of the second leg while 800m specialist Prudence Sekgodiso tried her best to stay in close contact. But it didn’t take long for Australian 1500m record-holder Jess Hull to make an impact on the race.
The world and Olympic finalist bided her time on the first half of the leg and then dug in for the final few minutes, first moving past Sekgodiso and then hunting down Cherop. Hull overtook the Kenyan on the last downhill section, then turned the corner and extended her lead through the zig-zag tyre zone.
Athletes on the first leg in the mixed relay in Bathurst (© Getty Images)
Hull – having put in a 5:47 leg, 11 seconds quicker than anyone else on that stage – handed over to teammate Stewart McSweyn with a five-second lead over Kenya, whose third-leg runner was 3:36 1500m man Daniel Kyumbe Munguti. Ethiopia’s Hawi Abera, meanwhile, came through at end of the leg to overtake South Africa’s Sekgodiso and move into third. Further back, 2017 world steeplechase champion Emma Coburn elevated the USA from 10th to fifth.
McSweyn maintained Australia’s lead for a couple of minutes, but Munguti reeled him in and forged ahead. The Kenyan completed his stage in 5:09, giving his team an eight-second lead going into the final leg.
McSweyn held on to second place with his 5:22 effort, but Tshepo Tshite put South Africa back into contention thanks to a 5:11 leg, handing over in third place. Steeplechase specialist Getnet Wale also had a good leg (5:13), to hand over just one second behind South Africa.
World U20 1500m silver medallist Brenda Chebet ran a confident final leg for Kenya. Australian anchor Abbey Caldwell was cheered on by the home crowd but had little response when Ethiopia’s world U20 champion Birke Haylom moved past her.
Haylom closed slightly on Chebet, and produced the fastest split of the stage (6:21) but the Kenyan was too far ahead to be caught and charged through the finish line in 23:14.
Ethiopia took silver in 23:21 and Australia claimed bronze in 23:26, finishing 24 seconds ahead of South Africa (23:50). USA held on to fifth place in 24:32, seven seconds ahead of Great Britain & NI.
“If you perform well in cross country, it's one of the assurances that you have prepared well in other competitions,” said Kenya’s Munguti. “We are happy with where we are now, and trust that we will do well in the future.”
Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics
|MIXED RELAY MEDALLISTS|