Ruth Chepngetich leads the senior women's race at the 2022 Kenyan Cross Country Championships (© Justin Lagat)
Racing on one of the toughest and most exciting courses ever designed for a cross country meeting in Kenya, Joyce Chepkemoi and Samuel Chebolei became the national champions, securing victory in Lobo Village in Eldoret on Saturday (22).
Representing the Kenya Defence Forces, Chepkemoi was greatly surprised by her senior women’s 10km win at the Kenyan Cross Country Championships, having finished seventh at the last national event.
World marathon champion Ruth Chepngetich had been the first to make a surge around one kilometre into the race, making sure that the field was already in single file as they plunged into the muddy section.
By the 3km mark, there was a group of five runners remaining in the leading pack.
Chepkemoi went on to claim the title in 34:00.00 ahead of Margaret Chelimo, who clocked 34:01.8 representing the Kenya Police, and Celliphine Chespol, who ran 34:23.3 representing the Kenya Prison Service.
"The course was tough, especially the muddy section," said Chepkemoi.
“After the Memorial Agnes Tirop World Cross Country Tour that will happen here, is when I will decide on my next step.”
Chelimo, who finished fourth at the Olympic trials in both the 5000m and the 10,000m races and narrowly missed out on representing her country in Tokyo, said it is still too early for her to decide which distance she will be focusing on, to make sure she secures a spot on the Kenyan team for the World Athletics Championships in Oregon this year.
There were some major upsets in the senior men’s 10km race as relatively new names dominated the closing stages after Daniel Simiu Ebenyo – who was seen as the pre-race favourite following his recent 26:58 10km win in Valencia – dropped out mid-race.
Often, the senior titles are claimed by athletes representing the Police, the Kenya Defence Forces or the Prison Service. But the top three places in the men’s race this time around went to runners from the general public.
North Rift’s Chebolei, the younger brother of world 1500m finalist Ronald Kwemoi, broke away from his nearest competitor during the final 2km lap to create a gap that would earn him a win in a comfortable margin. Clocking 29:28.9, he finished ahead of Kennedy Kiprop of Western in 29:35.2 and Vincent Kiprotich of Central Rift in 30:02.6.
In the men’s U20 race, Benson Kiplangat from South Rift waited until the last two laps before taking it to the front and dominating. The reigning world U20 5000m champion crossed the finish line of the 8km race in 24:08.00 ahead of Samuel Kibathi of Central in 24:16.9 and Raymond Kipkorir of South Rift in 24:21.40.
World U20 3000m steeplechase bronze medallist Faith Cherotich, also from South Rift, won the women’s U20 race in 20:28.4 ahead of her teammate Purity Chepkirui, the world U20 1500m champion, in 20:34.8 and Central Rift’s Grace Loibach in 21:07.0.
The U18 events were dominated by runners from the North Rift, with the name of the world marathon record-holder Brigid Kosgei getting mentioned as her sister, Pamela Kosgei, won the girls’ race in 18:19.4. Maurine Jepkoech followed in 18:34.6 before South Rift’s Evaline Chepkoech took third place in 18:43.2.
Also from the North Rift, Charles Rotich won the boys’ race in 18:05.2. Raphael Dapash of South Rift came second in 18:10.00 before another North Rift athlete, Vincent Maiyo, completed the podium in 18:18.4.
Justin Lagat for World Athletics