Eventual winner Phillip Kipyeko (left) runs alongside Moses Kipsiro at the Ugandan Cross Country Championships (© Namayo Mawerere)
World junior mountain-running champion Phillip Kipyeko convincingly outwitted defending champion Moses Kipsiro at the National Cross Country Championships in the Eastern Town of Jinja on Saturday (14).
Former 10,000m national record-holder Juliet Chekwel emerged the champion in the senior women’s race while Joshua Cheptegei and Stella Chesang retained their junior titles.
Breaking away from the pre-race favourite Kipsiro was not an easy task for Kipyeko. It was only during the final 30 metres when the final kick decided the fate of the 12km senior men’s race.
The two broke off from the leading pack in the last 4km in a neck-and-neck encounter until Kipsiro could no longer hold on to Kipyeko, who claimed his first major senior title after turning 20 this year.
“It was a tough race and I could not imagine beating Kipsiro because he is known to possess a very good final kick,” said Kipyeko, who last year won the national junior 8km title. “I also attribute this victory to my achievement at the World Mountain Running Championships. It motivated me a lot ahead of this event. I now have a huge task of preparing for the World Cross in Guiyang.”
Kipsiro, the 2009 world cross-country silver medallist, is happy that Uganda will be fielding a stronger senior men’s team at next month’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships.
“I am used to losing anyway,” said the 2007 world 5000m bronze medallist. “It was a good and competitive race, better than last year. It’s also good for young ones to challenge the seniors and that is how they will get experience, especially when Uganda is heading towards hosting the 2017 World Cross Country Championship.
“As hosts of this prestigious world event, we need to win gold and this team is becoming stronger and stronger. We need to prepare well for China as a dress rehearsal for 2017,” added Kipsiro.
Chekwel bounced back from injury to upstage a strong field of experienced opponents to win the senior women’s 8km race. Adero Nyakisi and Cheptegei Nancy both looked capable of bagging gold before Chekwel upstaged them on the last 2km lap, eventually winning by a margin of 200 metres.
“It was a tough race and I was not sure of the outcome because my opponents were well prepared and very experienced,” said Chekwel, who finished ninth at the 2013 World Cross. “But I was surprised with the gap I beat them by. My fitness has greatly improved and I anticipate good results at the forthcoming World Cross.”
There was an easy win for world junior mountain-running champion Stella Chesang, who went unchallenged after she ran a solo race to successfully defend her junior 6km title in 20:04. Doreen Chemutai and Janat Chemusto could not keep up, finishing a distant second and third respectively.
World junior 10,000m champion Joshua Cheptegei lived up to expectations, successfully defending his junior 8km national title without much struggle in 23:29.
“I could not take any chances so I kicked early half way through the race to avoid disappointments,” said Cheptegei. “I anticipated stiff opposition and tried to push my opponents but they failed to match my pace. I shall now focus on winning the gold medal in China. It will make a big impact if I got that medal before competing at the World Championships.
“It has been a while since Uganda won gold,” he added. “We must regain our fortunes from the medal podium.”
Namayo Mawerere for the IAAF
Senior men (12km)
1 Phillip Kipyeko 35:01
2 Moses Kipsiro 35:03
3 Goeffrey Kusuro 35:17
4 Moses Kibet 35:22
5 Monday Abdalla 35:27
6 Moses Kurong 35:35
Senior women (8km)
1 Juliet Chekwel 26:58
2 Adero Nyakisi 27:25
3 Nancy Cheptegei 27:35
4 Emily Chebet 27:41
5 Patricia Chekwemoi 28:11
6 Karen Chekwemoi 28:28
Junior men (8km)
1 Joshua Cheptegei 23:29
2 Fred Musobo 23:49
3 Mande Bushendich 24:22
4 Abel Chebet 24:03
5 Sam Cherop 24:06
6 Isaac Kibet 24:14
Junior women (6km)
1 Stella Chesang 20:04
2 Doreen Chemutai 20:17
3 Janat Chemusito 20:30
4 Rachael Zena 20:39
5 Mercy Chebet 20:48
6 Perusi Chemutai 21:00