Maxwell Rotich winning in Soria (© Organisers)
Uganda’s Maxwell Rotich and Portugal’s Mariana Machado raced to victory at the 26th ‘Cross Internacional de Soria’, the second leg of the 2019-20 World Athletics Cross Country Permit series held in the outskirts of Soria, Spain, on a cloudy and cold Sunday (17).
In doing so, the 21-year-old Rotich secured the seventh consecutive victory in the men’s race by a Ugandan, in the footsteps of compatriots Dickson Huru (2013), Timothy Toroitich (2014, 2015 and 2016) and Jacob Kiplimo (2017, 2018) while the reigning European U20 3000m silver medallist Machado, a late addition to the line-up, upset Bahrain’s world marathon silver medallist Rose Chelimo by the narrowest of the margins.
Men’s race – Africans keep Oumaiz at bay
Spain’s Ouassim Oumaiz led during the early stages of the men’s 10km event with the five Africans on show running comfortably at his shoulder - the Ugandan quartet of Thomas Ayeko, Toroitich, Rotich and Albert Chemutai plus Burundi’s Thierry Ndikumwenayo.
The second 2000m circuit witnessed how Ayeko stepped up the pace to force his rivals to run in crocodile file behind with Oumaiz closing the group but it was the Spain-based Burundian who moved to the front on the third lap closely followed by Rotich. By then the tandem was some 15 metres clear of Chemutai, Oumaiz, Ayeko and Toroitich who had already faded back.
By the bell Rotich pushed hard with only the long-legged Chemutai for company while Ndikumwenayo was a lonesome third three seconds behind. Over the closing loop Rotich proved to be the strongest leaving Chemutai behind midway through the lap. Meanwhile a fast-finishing Ndikumwenayo overtook the Ugandan some 700m from home to secure the second spot, three seconds behind Rotich but four seconds ahead of Chemutai.
Meanwhile Oumaiz, the surprise winner in Atapuerca last weekend, had to settle for fourth on this occasion 12 seconds adrift of the winner.
“I had scheduled to compete in Atapuerca last weekend but finally a visa problem prevented me from running there so I was eager to come to Soria and prove I’m in fine form,” said the winner, who was 27th at the World Championships last March. “In addition I’ve kept the Ugandan dominance here so I can’t ask for more.”
Teenager Machado outsprints Chelimo
The women’s 8km event kicked-off quite conservatively with a large pack heading the race after the opening 2000m lap. It was Chelimo who ruled the race by then with Spaniards Teresa Urbina, María José Pérez and Ana Lozano close behind alongside a late addition to the line-up in the guise of Portugal’s Machado.
Shortly after the halfway point, Chelimo, the 2017 world marathon champion, broke away easily from the rest of the leading contenders and cemented a solid margin which seemed to be insurmountable with Machado, Urbina and Pérez fighting for the minor places on the podium, the Portuguese always at the forefront of the triumvirate.
By the bell, Chelimo, who had a below-par performance last weekend in Atapuerca where she had to settle for the 15th spot, led her pursuers by seven seconds. Yet, already inside the closing kilometre the gap between Chelimo and Machado, who had already dropped the Spaniards, decreased dramatically until the Portuguese managed to pip Chelimo inches before the finish line to pull off the surprise of the day.
“I can’t believe I’ve just won a World Athletics permit ahead of the favourite Rose Chelimo,” said the Braga-born Machado, who celebrated her 19th birthday earlier this week. “It’s my second win this cross country season as I won in Palencia (Spain) two weeks ago so I’m on the right path ahead of the European ~Championships to be held in my country.”
The victor, who is coached by Sameiro Araujo, boasts lifetime bests of 4:10:61 (1500m) and 8:58:61 (3000). At last July’s European U20 Championships, she bagged bronze in the 3000m and barely six hours later finished fourth in the 1500m. In the latter she missed bronze by just 0.44, obviously hampered by the 3000m effort.
Machado is the daughter of Albertina Machado, who placed ninth at the 1988 Seoul Olympics in the 10,000m who recorded a career best of 31:52.04 for the distance.
Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics
1 Maxwell Rotich (UGA) 29:16
2 Thierry Ndikumwenayo (BDI) 29:19
3 Albert Chemutai (UGA) 29:23
4 Ouassim Oumaiz (ESP) 29:28
5 Thomas Ayeko (UGA) 29:46
6 Timothy Toroitich (UGA) 29:51
7 Nassim Hassaous (ESP) 29:54
8 Toni Abadía (ESP) 30:01
9 Fernando Carro (ESP) 30:11
10 Yemane Haileselassie (ERI) 30:11
1 Mariana Machado (POR) 27:49
2 Rose Chelimo (BRN) 27:49
3 Teresa Urbina (ESP) 28:01
4 Ana Lozano (ESP) 28:05
5 María José Pérez (ESP) 28:11
6 Azucena Díaz (ESP) 28:14
7 Cristina Espejo (ESP) 28:18
8 Diana Martín (ESP) 28:19
9 Dunia Mahassin (ESP) 28:26
10 Estela Navascués (ESP) 28:31