NAIROBI, February 13 – World silver medallist Faith Chepng’etich was the biggest casualty at the IAAF Permit/National Cross-County Championships held at Nairobi’s Uhuru Gardens on Saturday.
As expected the fierce rivalry between world champion Geoffrey Kamworor and title holder Bedan Karoki was the highlight of the day where Athletics Kenya named the team to represent the country at Africa Cross-Country Championships scheduled for March in Yaounde, Cameroon.
Kamworor, the reigning World Half Marathon champion once again proved his prowess to out-kick Karoki in the last 30 metres and take the senior men 10km honours in 28:19 while the world cross-country silver medallist settled for second (28:24) ahead of Africa Cross defending champion, Leonard Barsoton who came third (28:26).
In the corresponding senior women’s race, on form Alice Aprot was too good in a star-studded field, cutting the tape in 31:13.2 way ahead of second placed Beatrice Mutai (32:28.2) and Sheila Chepkirui (32:34.0) who came third.
Competing under hot and humid conditions, all focus was on Kamworor and Karoki and indeed the two did not disappoint the crowd that turned up.
The leading group of seven featuring all the favourites stuck together in the first lap but the race heated up on the third lap when James Rungari from South Rift took the lead, causing the pack to crumble to five.
Towards the last lap, Karoki took charge and opened a gap but Kamworor unleashed a powerful kick to overtake the defending champion and sprint to the tape.
“The race was competitive because there were experienced runners but I wasn’t worried because I had done a good preparation. Karoki is my friend, we have worked together in many championships but today we agreed whoever will be fit takes the day.”
“The course was muddy but that’s the nature of cross-country. I have good speed endurance so I knew I will beat Karoki at the final kick. I’m in the Africa cross-country team but when I will be confirmed in the World Half Marathon, then I will not go to Cameroon,” Kamworor who was representing the National Police Service said.
Kamworor, Karoki and Barsoton were named in the team for Africa Cross but the trio are yet to decide if they will participate.
-Aprot wins first national title-
Following her recent victory at United Kingdom’s Antrim International Cross Country, All Africa Games champion, Aprot won her first national cross-country title.
Aprot was in the leading pack of five after the first lap led by Pauline Kaveke of Kenya Prisons with Kenya Defence Forces pair of Chepkurui and Pauline Korikwangang as well as Chepng’etich.
Aprot took control after passing the 4km mark where he opened a gap followed by Korikwang as the pace increased forcing experienced and favourite Chepng’etich to pull out.
The 21 year-old continued to lead on the third and fourth laps, widening the gap to 250m all the way to the finish line and book a ticket to Cameroon.
Korikwang dropped to seventh, world steeplechase champion Hyvin Kiyeng finished sixth whist Diamond League title holder Virginia Nyambura was placed 14th.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy because we had world champions in the race. I opened the gap early because I don’t have the finishing power and that really contributed my victory,” Aprot underscored.
The Africa Cross-County team will report to camp on February 17 at Kigari Teachers Training College in Embu with Peter Angwenyi appointed Team Manager.
Sammy Rono will be the head coach assisted by John Chumo and Esther Kavaya.
Africa Cross-Country team.
Senior men 10km
Geoffrey Kamworor, Bedan Karoki, Leonard Barsoton, Charles Yosei, Philip Lagat, James Rungari.
Senior women 10km
Alice Aprot, Beatrice Mutai, Sheila Chepkirui, Daisy Jepkemei, Janet Kisa, Hyvin Kiyeng, Pauline Korikwang, Margaret Chelimo
Junior men 8km
Nickson Kiplagat, Andrew Lorot, Isaac Kipsang, Willy Kwemoi, Alfred Ng’eno, Ronald Kiprotich, Wesley Ledama, Elijah Kositany, Amos Kimutai
Junior women 6km
Sandrafelis Chebet, Mirriam Cherop, Lucy Cheruiyot, Gloria Kite, Winfried Mbithe, Emily Chebet.