PUNTA UMBRIA, SPAIN, March 20- Faith Chepng’etich overcame the raging Ethiopian tide to secure her first major title for her country when she raced 18:53 for gold in the junior women 6km race on Sunday at the opening race of the Punta Umbria World Cross.
Chepng’etich, who was fourth last year in Poland held off the spirited challenge of the much physically bigger Ethiopian trio of Genet Yalew (18:54), Azemra Gebru (18:54) and Waganesh Mekasha (18:59) who occupied the next three places in a thrilling final sprint for the tape in the sunny Spanish resort.
“I was not expecting this and I cannot believe it. The Ethiopians gave us a lot of work today and they had much fight in them. What aided me was I ran so fast in the up the hill and down the hill and when I looked back, my teammates were not with me.
“I’m so happy and the course was so good and I will return to defend my title in two years time,” the standard eight pupil at Keringet Township Primary School told reporters. Ethiopia’s strong finish wrested the team title from Kenya as Janet Kisia (19:08), Nancy Chepkwemoi (19:20), Purity Cherotich (1924) came in for fifth, sixth and seventh to take silver.
It took only metres from the start to turn this into an East African affair. From the gun Kenyans took-off with purpose as a unit and surged to the lead with their archrivals Ethiopia in hot pursuit. Chepkwemoi, debutant Kisia and Chepng’etich called the shots as they came in for the first lap in 6:10.
Behind them, Bydgoszcz silver winner, Cherotich and Ethiopians Buze Diriba, Genet Yalew, Emebet Anteneh, Gebru, Mekasha and Naomi Chepngeno closed the lead pack.
At the bell (4km mark), Cherotich had taken over the front running with Chepn’getich, Kisia, Yalew, Mekasha, Anteneh, Chepkwemoi, Diriba and Brilliant Jepkorir, the youngest Kenyan in the team at only 15 rounding the top nine.
As they came for the finish, two Kenyans and three Ethiopians were contesting for the three individual medals with Chepngetich and Kisia fronting the red, green and black nations’ interests. That is when the winner turned the afterburners to seal a memorable triumph.