NAIROBI, November 1- Bernard Katui Muia who is sitting for his O-Level final exams and World Junior bronze medallist, Sheila Chepng’etich turned on the style to romp to victory in senior men 12km and 8km women races during the opening Athletics Kenya (AK) National Cross Country Series weekend meeting in Nairobi on Saturday.
The event held at the relatively flat Posta Grounds course in the outskirts of the Kenyan capital was a first stop in the seven-meet series that will culminate in the IAAF Permit National Cross Country Championships in February where the country’s team for the March 28, 2015 IAAF World Cross in Guiyang, China will be selected.
Fast-finishing Davis Kiplagat and Jackline Chepkoech sealed the honours in the men 8km and women 6km junior races in the event that attracted deep fields with over 500 lining up for the start across the four races with the allure of the biennial World Cross serving as motivation.
Temperate weather conditions that saw the programme start under heavy clouds before the skies opened for sunshine for the show-stopping men’s long race faced the runners in the punishing elevation of Nairobi that stands at 1,680m above sea level.
-Muia aces first senior test-
Keen to emulate her elder sister Luicia Kamene Muia who medalled at the World Youth and World Juniors in the 2000m (2009) and 3000m (2010) steeplechase, Muia had a point to prove when he stepped out for his first senior men 12km race after narrowly missing this year’s Africa Cross Championships in Kampala after a seventh finish at the Trials put him just a place outside selection consideration.
The Form 4 student at Ndumbi Secondary School in the southern region of Machakos adopted a training programme suited to ensure he was in good stead to sit for the ongoing Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KSCE) final exams as a candidate.
It was Emmanuel Kipsang’s surge on the third of the six 2km laps that staggered the field before Franklin Ngelei took charge at the 8km mark and the lead changed once more at the bell when John Elimlim sauntered to the lead.
Katui all along shadowed the pacesetters and moved to third as they entered the last loop and just shy of a kilometre to go, he reeled in the front pair before steadily accelerating past them to round the victory by a margin of 20m in 32:55, with Elimlim two seconds shy in second as Ngelei (32:86) holding on for third.
“My sister encouraged me to start running and I came here to test my form and after winning, I can now train harder and push for a place in the Kenya team for the World Cross.
“I listened to my coach who told me how to run 12km since it is different from junior race and I was patient until the right time. The exams are not hard for me since I wake up very early to train before I go to class to write my papers and sturdy in the evening. It’s balancing education and running since I want to go on a scholarship in Japan like my sister,” the 18 year-old winner over a field of 145 starters, the most populated race, said.
-Chepng’etich steps up seamlessly-
Also running her first cross country race as a senior, World Junior 1500m bronze winner, Sheila Chepng’etich enjoyed the most dominant victory of the day, taking the race by the scruff of its neck before putting daylight between her and the competition in an imposing display of powerful front running that stopped unchallenged at 24:09.
Behind the rubble she left trailing in her wake, Miriam Muthoni (24:30) and seasoned Nancy Nzisa (24:39) grabbed the remaining podium positions as the winner settled for her post race interviews- such was the gulf involved.
“I felt comfortable and my aim is to emulate Faith Chepng’etich who graduated into seniors last year and went on to win the Africa Cross title and Commonwealth title. I will take part in this series to see where I am because I know it will get harder,” the 19-year-old asserted.
– Kiplagat finds wining gears-
Julius Tanki thought he had done enough to wrap up victory in the men 8km showdown as he approached the bell in a three-way contest for the honours looking assured in command.
However, 17 year-old Silibwet Secondary School Form 3 student, Davis Kiplagat, was working his way up the field from fifth after uncorking a sustained sprint that overhauled the leaders and 600m from the finish, he caught up with the frontrunner before opening up the strides to romp home with a comfortable advantage in 21:21 for the win.
Tanki, who schools at Kiptome Secondary School, was forced to accept runner-up (21:25) four seconds ahead of Dominic Tarus who completed the rostrum.
“When we started the race, it was cold and I felt my chest clogging up. That is when I decided to relax at the back of the field and when I saw they were not going away, I took my chance and chased them down.
“This is my first ever victory in Kenya and it has given me the hunger to go out for more and hopefully, I can run for my country at the World Cross,” Kiplagat, coached by veteran Japheth Kemei who led Kenya’s team to the Olympic Youth Games in Nanjing, China stated.
“I will work on my finishing because I knew I had done enough but he had a stronger kick in the end. I will return in the other remaining races confident I can win,” Tanki added.
In the corresponding women’s 6km race that got proceedings underway on the course, living next to Commonwealth champion, Cherono as well as attending the Kipajit Primary school her heroine passed through for her formative education was enough motivation to urge on Jackline Chepkoech to launch her cross country season in triumphant fashion.
“She talked to me and said I should go without fear and run smart. The race was difficult but seeing what Mercy has done since she started from our village keeps me going strong and today, she will be proud of me,” the runner who trains together with the Glasgow 5000m champion in the K-Shiners club gushed after clocking 18:23 for the honours ahead of Betty Chepkemoi (18:25.61) and Victoria Mwikali (18:28.44) who rounded the top three.
The domestic series has USD2797.99 series jackpot up for grabs in each category with top-six finishers in every round and the Nationals awarded points to correspond to their position where the winner is the runner who accumulates the fewest total.
Athletics Kenya (AK) also reserves a wildcard for jackpot winners to encourage involvement in the domestic circuit. Each individual winner took home USD279.7 with Iten (November 15), Nyahururu (December 5), Machakos (December 20) and Sotik (January 3) hosting the next four weekend meetings.
Men senior 12km
1. Bernard Katui Muia 32:54.82
2. John Elimlim 32:57.23
3. Franklin Ngelei 33:85.69
4. Emmanuel Kipsang 33:13.40
5. Bernard Kipkemoi 33:21.51
6. Hosea Nailel 33:37.50
7. Stephen Arita 33:45.03
8. Noah Chepngabit 33:53.69
9. Elkana Terer 33:57.75
10. Patrick Mathenge 34:01.76
Women senior 8km
1. Sheila Chepng’etich 24:08.06
2. Miriam Muthoni 24:29.54
3. Nancy Nzisa 24:39.14
4. Beatrice Mutai 24:49.71
5. Monica Ngige 24:57.87
6. Caroline Chepkoech 25:12.52
7. Hellen Mugo 25:22.32
8. Anne Gatheru 25:31.93
9. Shimita Muriuki 25:45.32
10. Judith Kiyeng 25:52.14
Men Junior 8km
1. Davis Kiplagat 21:20.90
2. Julius Tanki 21:25.16
3. Dominic Tarus 21:29.09
4. Andrew Lorot 21:34.30
5. Geoffrey Korir 21:35.03
6. Silas Laikong 21:45.18
7. Leonard Langat 21:49.52
8. Moses Koech 21:54.92
9. Charles Mwaniki 21:57.00
10. Joshua Nakeri 21:58.66
Junior women 6km
1. Jackline Chepkoech 18:23.33
2. Betty Chepkemoi 18:25.61
3. Victoria Mwikali 18:28.44
4. Janet Chepng’etich 18:34.55
5. Janet Chesang 18:40.14
6. Abigail Wanjiku 18:41.65
7. Damaris Cheptoo 18:49.31
8. Beatrice Chepkirui 19:03.65
9. Mary Mbuku 19:14.79
10. Josephine Musau 19:23.03