NAIROBI, Kenya, November 20- National team head coach, Julius Kirwa is seething with the continued absence of elite runners from the NBK/AK National Cross Country Series that marked the third leg in Embu on Saturday.
Kirwa said the apathy towards the domestic cross series by top runners would adversely affect preparations for the London Olympics next year.
“To be honest, I’m not happy with them and I’m urging them to participate in the remaining events so that they can get an early advantage. An Olympics year is coming up and none of our champions from the World Championships have appeared and I’m worried,” Kirwa said.
He added: “There are no better preparations for an athlete than competing in cross country since it helps in building endurance and speed. Every runner from 800m to 10,000m should be here but I’m impressed with the few sprinters who are competing at these events.”
The head coach admitted the absent lure of the World Cross at this year’s series was also impacting negatively on the numbers as only 650 of the expected 1000 runners showed up.
“Making the World Cross biennial is also affecting our runners but there is the Africa Cross as well and it is also as important,” he explained.
During the event, World Junior 3000m titleholder Isaiah ‘Chairman’ Kiplangat made a resounding entry to senior running by bagging the men 12km long race victory.
Stanchart Nairobi runner-up Winfridah Kwamboka edged out a thrilling battle for the tape in the senior women 8km race as while World Youth 3000m champion, William Sitonik winning run in the 8km junior men race was brought to an end by a resurgent Japheth Korir.
Africa Cross Country bronze winner, Zipporah Wanjiru who was beaten to third in the opening meet in Tala, Kangundo, found the legs to fashion a dominant victory in the junior women 8km run at the alternating flat and hilly course in Embu.
The star of the meet was Kenya Police runner Kiplangat, who arrived in Embu unannounced in the absence of Nicholas Togom, another graduating junior who has romped to two successive victories in the Tala and Chepkoilel legs, stole the show by beating four Kenya Defence Forces runners to the tape with a searing last 600m sprint in 36:02.28.
“This was my first time as a senior runner and I did not know whether to sprint away from them or stay with the group. I was expecting a top six finish but at the bell, I realized I had the strength to go for it and when the chance came, I broke away.
“I’m so delighted with the victory and I can now focus on making the Kenyan team for the next Africa World Cross but I admit it will be harder as a senior,” the national junior men cross titleholder said post-race.
Linus Chumba (36:05.0), who last competed for his nation at the 2009 World Cross in Amman, led Defence Forces teammates, Lewis Nyariki (36:06.0), Reuben Limaar (36:10.0), Simon Ndirangu (36:18.12) home in that order to complete the top-five.
“I have adjusted my training to gain the required form since my comeback from injury and I’m glad it is working and now I can look forward to challenging for a place in the Kenyan team next year,” the bridesmaid who was also second in Tala and sixth in Chepkoilel said.
In the corresponding women 8km race, it took judges to award Kwamboka, who returned 2:31:33 on her marathon debut on October 29 in Nairobi the victory after she arrived at the tape neck and neck with the charging Gladys Cherono in a finale that had the vocal and healthy crowd provided by the Kangaru Boys’ and Girls’ high schools up on their feet.
The timers returned 28:03.7 against 28:04.0 in favour of the former Nyeri Half Marathon winner who said her intention was to prepare for a faster marathon next season. “It was very difficult today and after leading for so long, I saw her catch up with me close to the finish and I said to myself, let me give it a last push and it almost did not work,” the relieved Kwamboka added.
Tabitha Chelagat (28:25.0), Antoninah Ruto (28:29.8) and Millicent Gathoni (28:37.8) completed the top-five.
Also intriguing was the junior men 8km run where Korir, the 2010 World Cross silver winner and this year’s champion medallist in Cape Town sought to score a domestic victory in a year. Sitonik, who won the top World Youth medal in Lille, France before adding the Commonwealth Youth crown in Isle of Man this September, brought a perfect start to the 2011/2012 cross series.
From the opening 2km loop, the pair detached themselves from the field before making the race an internal competition that Korir topped with a spirited breakaway in the last 500m to breast the tape in 23:47.1.
“It’s been a long time coming and I’m so thrilled it happened. After finishing fourth in Tala and second last week in Eldoret, I adjusted my training to deal with him and I felt comfortable through out,” the winner remarked.
Behind the charged pair, Johana Maina (24:07.0) took bronze with Ernest Ngeno (24:09.6), John Kariuki (24:15.2) and Bernard Muia (24:19.8) following suit.
After being compelled to take bronze in Tala, the Nyahururu based Form 2 student at Mungetho Secondary School ensured she would take all the plaudits when she destroyed the assembled field for victory in 21:06.0 in the women’s junior 6km run.
“For now, my focus is to return to the Africa Cross country and hopefully the year after that, making the World Cross that I missed this year. I came prepared to run fast and the course and weather helped me,” she offered as Pauline Njeri (21:25.3), Pauline Eapan (21:35.1), Nancy Nzisa (21:37.6) and Nancy Gathure (21:45.6) trailed the leader home in that order.
Winners took home Sh20,000 each with Sh15,000, Sh10,000, Sh4,000 and Sh3,000 being awarded for the equivalent next positions.
Junior women 6km– 1. Zipporah Njeri 21:06.0, 2. Pauline Njeri 21:25.3, 3. Pauline Eapan 21:35.1, 4. Nancy Nzisa 21:37.6, 5. Nancy Kathure 21:45.6, 6. Eunice Lucia 21:49.6, 7. Rosemary Mbula 22:09.4, 8. Caroline Kawira 22:14.7, 9. Vaati Ndolo 22:24.0, 10. Lydia Karegi.
Junior men 8km– 1. Japheth Korir 23:47.1, 2. William Sitonik 23:57.8, 3. Johana Maina 24:07.0, 4. Ernest Ngeno 24:09.6, 5. John Kariuki 24:15.2, 6. Bernard Muia 24:19.8, 7. Peter Matheka 24:33.1, 8. Paul Kamais 24:33.3, 9. Joseph Kamathi 24:33.7, 10. John Maweu 24:51.0.
Senior women 8km– 1. Winfridah Kwamboka 28:03.7, 2. Gladys Cherono 28:04.0, 3. Tabitha Chelagat 28:25.0, 4. Antoninah Ruto 28:29.8, 5. Millicent Gathoni 28:37.8, 6. Ann Wabera 28:54.0, 7. Mary Ann Wangari 29:01.2, 8. Jane Wanja 29:22.6, 9. Albania Muiru 29:32.1, 10. Jane Chelagat 29:33.0.
Senior men 12km– 1. Isaiah Kiplangat 36:02.2, 2. Linus Chumba 36:05.0, 3. Lewis Nyariki 36:06.0, 4. Reuben Limaar 36:10.0, 5. Simon Ndirangu 36 :18.12, 6. Wilson Too 36:33.6, 7. Peter Mateelong 36 :51.1, 8. Shadrack Kosgei 36 :54.4, 9. John Mwangangi 36:55.3, 10. Robert Langat 37:21.2