Report03 Feb 2024

Ebenyo and Anyango claim top honours at Sirikwa Classic


Daniel Ebenyo wins the Sirikwa Cross Country (© Michelle Katami)

World 10,000m silver medallist Daniel Ebenyo and Emmaculate Anyango lived up to their pre-race favourite status by emerging victorious at Sirikwa Classic – a World Athletics Cross Country Tour Gold meeting – in Kenya’s Eldoret town on Saturday (3).

As the leading athlete in the men’s senior race, Ebenyo was among the front athletes in the big pack when they went past the first lap in 6:07. Frequent frontrunner Ebenyo took a more economical approach this time, sitting with the rest of the group which also had world U20 cross-country champion Ishmael Kipkurui.

With three laps to go, Ebenyo and Kipkurui were still side by side, leading a pack of more than 10 athletes. Ebenyo finally managed to make a break from Kipkurui on the final lap and stayed in command to win his first Sirikwa Classic title in 29:16.

“This win means my training is going on well,” said Ebenyo, who claimed world silver medals last year over 10,000m and at the half marathon. “There is no magic in athletics; you must train well. The race was very good and the competition was fantastic – I respect Kipkurui.

“I love competing and I like cross country; it’s good for building up to the track session,” added Ebenyo. “I feel happy to win at home. I love running at home with the locals, it gives them motivation too.”

Ebenyo revealed that he developed a stitch after the first lap and considered dropping out of the race, but his coach encouraged him to see it through.

“It would have been shameful for me to drop out,” said Ebenyo. “My coach kept reminding me it’s not over until it’s over.”

Kipkurui was a close second in 29:18 while Weldon Langat completed the podium in 29:26.

“The race was difficult because everyone was competitive, and the sun was too hot,” said Kipkurui. “My plan now is to go to the African Cross Country Championships and the World Cross, and then prepare for the Olympics where I want to participate in the 5000m.”

Emmaculate Anyango – the second-fastest woman in history over 10km with her recent 28:57 – made her intentions known from the outset of the women’s race. She, alongside world half marathon silver medallist Catherine Amanang'ole, Grace Nawomuna Loibach and Joyciline Jepkosgei, led the pack for the first lap in a swift 6:59, which forced many of the field to drop back.

Emmaculate Anyango wins the Sirikwa Classic Cross Country

Emmaculate Anyango wins the Sirikwa Classic Cross Country (© Michelle Katami)

Anyango then increased her pace and covered the second lap in 6:11 to gradually open up a gap between her and Amanang'ole. By the third lap, Anyango had increased her lead to about 250 metres with Amanang'ole and Jepkosegi trailing behind.

Anyango went on to cut the tape in 32:55, winning by a comfortable 15 seconds from Jepkosgei, the former world half marathon record-holder. Amanang'ole took third place in 33:18, eight seconds behind Jepkosgei.

“The race was beautiful,” said an upbeat Anyango. “I gave my best, although at some point I felt cold in my chest, but that was not a big problem. I promised myself to win and I did it. I like to run fast, that is it. For me it is one way: when I step on the course, I step on it. I am competitive, I go for it. If you run slow, someone else can beat you at the finish. So, first come, first served.

“My plan now is to prepare for the World Cross Country,” she added. I want to achieve something there, then if all goes well I will be at the Olympic Games.”

Jepkosgei, the former New York and London Marathon champion, was happy with her outing.

“The pace was too fast after the first lap, so I decided to stay back and run my own race,” she said. “I’m happy that I closed the gap and took second place. Cross country forms part of my speed work.”

In the U20 women’s 6km, world U20 3000m bronze medallist Nancy Cherop led a pack of 10 athletes for the first two laps. The group was reduced to six athletes in a single file, then eventually down to three including Judy Kemunto, and Mercy Chepkemoi.

Chepkemoi took the lead on the last lap and went on to win in 20:10 ahead of Diana Chepkemoi, who clocked 20:12. Sheila Jebet sneaked in third place with 20:14.

The U20 men’s 8km event was won by Mathew Kipchoech. A large pack headed into the second lap, but the group soon started to break up. On the third lap Gideon Kipngetich and Samuel Kibathi took the lead with Charles Rotich close behind. Kipchoech struck on the last lap and led all the way to the finish to win in 23:32 from Kibathi and Rotich.

Michelle Katami for World Athletics