Report12 Mar 2016

Kenya rules at African Cross Country Championships


Alice Aprot wins the senior women's race at the African Cross Country Championships (© Saddique Shaban)

Kenyan athletes won every available title – and 10 of the 12 individual medals on offer – at the 4th edition of the African Cross Country Championship in Yaounde, Cameroon, on Saturday (12).

Having finished third at the 2014 African Cross Country Championships in Kampala two years ago, Alice Aprot was this time in a class of her own and produced the most convincing victory of the day.

The All-Africa Games 10,000m champion hit the lead as soon as the gun fired and never looked back. She covered the 8km course in 29:52 to win by a staggering 52 seconds.

Sheila Chepkirui, the 2005 world youth 1500m champion, settled for second place in 30:44. Road-running specialist Beatrice Mutai, the older sister of world 1500m silver medallist Faith Kipyegon, was third in 31:08.

Five seconds behind the Kenyan medal sweep, world junior cross-country silver medallist Dera Dida finished fourth in 31:13 in what was her first international championships as a senior athlete. 2012 world junior steeplechase champion Daisy Jepkemei was Kenya’s final scorer in fifth, clocking 31:29.

The last race of the day, the senior men’s 10km, saw an epic sprint finish between Kenya’s James Rungaru and Uganda’s Philip Kipyeko.

After a conservative start led by the Kenyan runners, Kipyeko took the lead with four kilometres to go. He then started to push the pace, reducing the leading pack to four men with a lap to go.

With the final kilometre approaching, the lead group was quickly whittled down to three as Rungaru and Charles Yosei matched Kipyeko’s pace. With Kipyeko threatening to end Kenya’s dominance, it came down to a final fight for gold between him and Rungaru.

The long-striding Rungaru finally hit the front with 50 metres to go, outkicking Kipyeko to win by one second in 26:35, the smallest margin of victory in the senior men’s race in the history of the African Cross Country Championships.

“I have finally won after trying twice,” said Rungaru after winning his first major title, having previously represented Kenya at the 2015 All-Africa Games and at the 2011 IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

Kipyeko, on the other hand, led Uganda to a team silver medal to go with his individual one. Yosei took the bronze in 26:46, earning Kenya’s 14th medal of the day.

Cherop and Kipsang take junior titles

The first race of the day saw 1500m specialist Miriam Cherop lead her compatriots to a perfect team score of 10 points as Kenya filled the top four positions in the junior women’s race. Cherop, who hails from Bomet County, an area that has produced some of Kenya’s finest talents, used her finishing speed to take a convincing victory in 18:31.

Gloria Kite, from Saint Patrick’s High School in Iten and who is guided by renowned coach Brother Colm O’Connell, edged out Winfred Mbithe by one second to take the silver medal. Lucy Cheruiyot finished fourth to give her team the perfect 10 points, while Ethiopian Muliye Dekobo was the first non-Kenyan finisher in fifth.

Isaac Kipsang, who finished third at last month’s Kenyan Cross Country Championships, improved to the top spot in the junior men’s race, finishing 11 seconds in front of newcomer Ronald Kiprotich. All-Africa Games 5000m finalist Aron Kifle of Eritrea denied a Kenyan medal sweep by taking third place.

African junior 1500m champion Anthony Kiptoo was fourth while stepbrothers Andrew Lorot and Nixon Kiplagat followed in fifth and sixth.

Kip Evans for the IAAF

Leading results

Senior men 10km
1 James Rungaru (KEN) 26:34
2 Phillip Kipyeko (UGA) 26:35
3 Charles Yosei (KEN) 26:46
4 Cleophas Ngetich (KEN) 26:52
5 Geoffrey Koech (KEN) 27:09
6 Getaneh Tamire (ETH) 27:13

Senior men team
1 Kenya
2 Uganda
3 Ethiopia

Senior women 8km
1 Alice Aprot (KEN) 29:52
2 Sheila Chepkirui (KEN) 30:44
3 Beatrice Mutai (KEN) 31:08
4 Dera Yami (ETH) 31:13
5 Daisy Chepkemei (KEN) 31:29
6 Nancy Nzisa (KEN) 31:30

Senior women team
1 Kenya
2 Ethiopia
3 South Africa

Junior men 8km
1 Isaac Kipsang (KEN) 21:33
2 Ronald Kiprotich (KEN) 21:44
3 Aron Kifle (ERI) 21:48
4 Anthony Kiptoo (KEN) 21:56
5 Andrew Lorot (KEN) 21:59
6 Nixon Kiplagat (KEN) 22:11

Junior men team
1 Kenya
2 Ethiopia
3 South Africa

Junior women 6km
1 Miriam Cherop (KEN) 18:31
2 Gloria Kite (KEN) 18:39
3 Winfredah Mbithe (KEN) 18:40
4 Lucy Cheruiyot (KEN) 18:42
5 Muliye Dekobo (ETH) 18:52
6 Tersit Desalgn (ETH) 19:02

Junior women team
1 Kenya
2 Ethiopia
3 Morocco