Tomothy Toroitich at the head of the men's race at the 2014 Cross Internacional de Soria (© Organisers)
Timothy Toroitich scored his third victory on Spanish soil this winter at the 35th edition of the Cross Internacional de Venta de Banos on Sunday (21).
The in-form Ugandan won by a commanding 24 seconds in Alcobendas three weeks ago but on this occasion, Toroitich didn’t feature at the front of the senior men’s race until the seventh kilometre.
Toroitich duly lived up to the mantle of pre-race favourite which was emboldened when top-ranked steeplechaser Jairus Birech pulled out at the last minute, although his winning margin in the 10.575km race was comparatively modest at four seconds.
His winning time was confirmed at 34:57 while Antonio Abadia and Roberto Alaiz, who helped Spain to the team silver medal at last weekend’s European Cross Country Championships, crossed the line almost together in second and third respectively.
Toroitich will return to Spain next month for the IAAF Cross Country Permit race in Seville on 18 January before finalising his preparations for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang where he will be looking to improve on his fifth-place finish from 2013.
In the women’s 6.775km race, Mimi Belete easily defeated European 1500m champion Sifan Hassan from the Netherlands.
Belete, who set PBs this summer at 1500m, 3000m and 5000m, crossed the finish-line in 24:05 to defeat Hassan by 26 seconds.
Despite a comfortable win on home soil in Tilburg last month, Hassan opted to miss the European Cross Country Championships as she didn’t think the course would play to her strengths. However, she is aiming to compete at the European Indoor Championships in Prague in March.
Early leader Carla Salome Rocha from Portugal dropped away from the lead group in the fourth kilometre but completed the podium in third in 24:46.
Lidia Rodriguez was the leading Spaniard in fourth in 25:05 with Alessandra Aguilar fifth in 25:14.
Big names beaten in Machakos
Commonwealth 1500m finalist Selah Jepleting defeated a strong women’s field including world 5000m silver medallist Mercy Cherono at the fifth race of the AK/KCB Cross Country Series in Machakos on Saturday (20).
Jepleting, who was only 25th at the Kenyan Cross Country Championships in February, covered the 8km course in 25:18 to defeat 20-year-old Caroline Kipkirui – the African junior 5000m and cross-country champion from three years ago – by six seconds.
Cherono has showed good form on the Spanish cross-country circuit this winter but she couldn’t keep pace with the leaders in Machakos. She finished third, although an official time wasn’t registered.
Further back, sub-2:20 marathon runner and two-time Olympian Lucy Kabuu finished sixth in 25:45.
In the women’s junior race, world youth steeplechase champion Roseline Chepngetich was beaten by the in-form Sandra Chebet, who took her third win of the series after triumphing in recent weeks in Nyahururu and Olenguruone.
Likewise, Philip Langat maintained good form with his second victory in the AK/KCB series in succession. After winning in Nyahururu two weeks ago, Langat won the senior men’s 12km race in Machakos in 33:22 to defeat local runner Bernard Muia by seven seconds with Emmanuel Bor third in 33:41.
African junior cross-country silver medallist Andrew Lorot won the men’s junior 8km race in 22:18 ahead of Silas Laikong and John Langat.
At the Moi University Community Cross Country race in Eldoret which was sponsored by 2007 world 800m champion Alfred Kirwa Yego, Agnes Tirop won the women’s race in 20:14 to defeat Angela Tanui – a good runner with a sub-32 minute 10km PB to her credit – by a whopping margin of 2:22.
Tirop, who won the African junior cross-country title in March and silver at the 2013 World Cross Country Championships, will move into the senior ranks next year. Her goal is to make the Kenyan team for the World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang.
Steven Mills (with assistance from Kip Evans) for the IAAF