Letesenbet Gidey in action at the Jan Meda Cross Country (© Aman Ahmed)
World 10,000m champion Letesenbet Gidey and 2021 Diamond League champion Berihu Aregawi won the hotly contested senior races at the Jan Meda Cross Country in Sululta on Sunday (1).
With this event doubling as Ethiopia’s trial race for the World Athletics Cross Country Championships Bathurst 23, Gidey’s and Aregawi’s victories secured their places on the team for the global event on 18 February.
As has been the case for the past two editions, this year’s event was held in Sululta – about an hour away from Addis Ababa – instead of at the Jan Meda Race Course in the Ethiopian capital. The highly competitive races are, given the altitude, often a brutal war of attrition, and this year’s edition was no exception.
A large pack ran together for most of the senior women’s 10km. Tsigie Gebreselama, the 2020 Jan Meda champion and 2019 world U20 cross-country bronze medallist, led the group for several laps while Gidey ran near the back of the pack for the first half of the race.
Gidey moved up into second place after passing through the third of five two-kilometre laps, but Gebreselama continued to lead as the pack started to get strung out. As they embarked on the final lap, the leading six women had made a break from the rest of the pack, but Gidey still appeared to be biding her time behind long-time leader Gebreselama.
With just under one kilometre remaining, Gidey – the world 5000m and 10,000m record-holder – edged into the lead and moved up a gear, opening up a significant gap on her opponents within a short space of time. The two-time world U20 cross-country champion continued to pull away from her pursuers in the closing stages to cross the finish line in 35:22.
Gete Alemayehu, the defending champion, was a distant runner-up in 35:41. World steeplechase bronze medallist Mekides Abebe produced a last-ditch sprint finish to overtake Gebreselama just before the finish line, claiming third place in 35:47.
Defending champion Aregawi was a similarly convincing winner of the men’s race, which played out in similar fashion to the women’s contest.
The Olympic 10,000m fourth-place finisher positioned himself just behind the leaders for the first few laps, allowing the field to settle.
Tadese Worku, the 2021 world U20 3000m champion, led for most of the middle section of the race, with Aregawi, Olympic 10,000m champion Selemon Barega, and past Jan Meda winners Getaneh Molla and Mogos Tuemay close behind.
Aregawi, no stranger to long sustained solo efforts on the track, started to make a tentative break with about nine minutes of running left, while Molla and Worku led the strung-out chase group. The chasers were unable to get back on equal terms with the leader in the closing stages, so Aregawi cruised through the final lap and crossed the finish line in 30:45, winning by nine seconds from Worku.
Molla finished third, just a second behind Worku, while Tuemay and Chimdessa Debele took the next two places, a comfortable distance ahead of Hailemariyam Amare, the African 5000m and steeplechase champion. Barega crossed the line in seventh place.
Lemlem Nibret and Bereket Zeleke, winners here back in 2021, once again won the U20 women’s and men’s titles respectively.
Senior women (10km)
1 Letesenbet Gidey 35:22
2 Gete Alemayehu 35:41
3 Mekides Abebe 35:47
4 Tsigie Gebreselama 35:47
5 Fotyen Tesfay 35:49
6 Wude Kefele 35:52
Senior men (10km)
1 Berihu Aregawi 30:45
2 Tadese Worku 30:54
3 Getaneh Molla 30:55
4 Mogos Tuemay 31:03
5 Chimdessa Debele 31:05
6 Hailemariyam Amare 31:12
U20 women (6km)
1 Lemlem Nibret 20:34
2 Melknat Wudu 20:36
3 Senait Getachew 20:36
4 Tinebeb Asres 20:38
5 Birke Haylom 20:45
6 Medina Eisa 20:50
U20 men (8km)
1 Bereket Zeleke 24:49
2 Boki Diriba 24:50
3 Abel Bekele 24:52
4 Yismaw Dilu 24:55
5 Kuma Girma 24:56
6 Bereket Nega 24:57