Mercy Cherono of Kenya celebrates winning the 3000m gold in Moncton (© Getty Images)
Reigning world junior men’s and women’s champions John Mwangangi and Mercy Cherono were crowned senior champions at the inaugural Africa Cross Country Championships in Cape Town South Africa on Sunday (6 March).
Mwangangi and Cherono last year concluded their days as juniors on an equally positive note on the track. Mwangangi is world junior 1500m champion while Cherono the junior women’s 3000m champion. Besides winning all individual medals, Kenyans easily claimed the team titles in all four race categories.
The winning trend was set in the day’s first event the junior women’s 6 kilometres. Caroline Chepkoech (19:59) lead, Mary Munanu (20:00), Zipporah Wanjiru (20:05), Jepchirchir (20:09), Alice Aprot (20:12), Norah Cheruto (20:53) across the finish line. Botswana’s Kefilwe Galeitsiwe (21.26) was seventh.
“During our pre-race strategy session we agreed that the junior women will set the Kenyan trend at this event. So we went out in front at the start of the race and ran as a team over the first lap,” says Mary Munanu.
“In the second lap we increased the pace to open up a gap over the rest of the field. In the last lap it was each for herself. Our aim was to win all the medals,” Munanu explained.
The pattern was repeated in the junior men’s 8 kilometres. Japhet Korir (23:03) was followed by Patrick Mwaka (23:04), Nicholas Togom (23:18), Gideon Kipketer (23:19), Dennis Kipruto (23:21), Edwin Mokua (23:28). Moroccan Abd Elmunaim Yahia Ada (24:06) was seventh.
Continuing the trend Mercy Cherono (27:13) emerged victorious in the senior women’s 8 kilometres. She was followed by Viola Kibiwot (27:14), Doris Changeiywo (27:22), Pauline Njeri (27:23), Iness Chenones (27:43), and Morocco’s Lakhouad Bissam (28:29).
By the time of the last race, the men’s 12km Kenya’s apprehensive opponents were intended to try and block a clear Kenyan sweep of the top six places from the start.
But leading by example, Kenyan team captain Mwangangi (35:31) was first across the finish line. Stephen Kiprotch (35:34), Henry Chirchir (35:35) and Phillip Kiprono (35:39). Then South Africans Kgosi Tsotsane (36:32), Stephen Mokoka (36:49) and Zambian Tony Wamulwa (36:56) broke the Kenyan monopoly.
“We gave our best. When we go back home we will tell Kenyans we represented them well. We will ask them to pray for us so we do the same at the IAAF World Championships in (Punta Umbria) Spain in two weeks’ time,” said Mwangangi.
Mark Ouma for the IAAF