NAIROBI, Kenya, January 11- The 2011 World Cross junior champion, Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor, fended off the challenge of New York Marathon winner, Geoffrey Mutai to retain his men’s 12km senior title during the 2014 Kenya Police Cross Country Championships in Nairobi, Saturday.
In the corresponding women’s 8km event, Berlin Marathon winner, Florence Kiplagat, annihilated a diluted field to reclaim the crown she last won in 2009, the year she won the World Cross title in Amman, Jordan.
The star-studded meet that panned out amid scorching heat and low humidity also witnessed the return to form of former Commonwealth Games 5000m gold medallist, Augustine Choge and former World Junior 1500m titleholder, Irene Jelagat, who clinched podium places in the men and women races.
Kamworor handcuffs Mutai again
In a re-run of the finishing order from last year, Kipsang, who soared to the World Cross title in Punta Umbria, Spain as a junior in 2011 re-enacted his forceful front running to once again lead Mutai, another accustomed to unobstructed view of the course, to the altar in an almost gun to tape performance.
Kipsang, 21, stopped the clock at 36:45.7 after pounding the winding Ngong Racecourse course to submission, leaving all challengers trailing in his wake once he nosed in front at the first 2km loop.
“I’m not used to running any other way. I knew Mutai was here and having beaten him last year, I knew he would come strong and all I wanted here is to defend my Police title.”
“I’m preparing for the Tokyo Marathon and maybe later in the year, run in Chicago and my aim is to run under 2:06 if it’s possible. I’m still new in the marathon and with experience, I could run under 2:04 in the future,” the elated winner stated.
Behind him, an enthralling dash for second ensued between Mutai, who has recovered from the gruelling New York Marathon win last fall, and Choge, who held on to the front three in a statement of his return to the form that carried him to the Club Games title in 2006.
In the end, the polished marathoner, 32, carried the day; 36:45.7 against Choge’s 37:27.3 after he cut loose from his challenger with 50m to go.
“I have still not in my competition weight since it took a while to recover from New York and recently, I had malaria. I was not expecting to perform the way I did here but now, I know what my mistakes were and will work on them.”
“It was tough for me but I will prepare for the season and compete in any (World Marathon) Majors race I’m invited to but winning New York for the third time is something I would be interested in,” Mutai, who also expressed interest in competing for his nation at the Africa Cross Country Championships in Kampala, Uganda, if selected told.
The depth of the field was emphasised by the fact that all top-ten finishers save for guest runner, Bernard Kipkemoi from Keringet who was seventh, and tenth placed Joseph Kiptum (38:34.5) have medalled for Kenya at various world and continental championships in junior or senior ranks.
Once she pressed the hammer down and embarked on competing against the course and clock with 3km gone, Kiplagat, fresh from winning her second Berlin Marathon crown in the fall, was simply irresistible as she crushed the field for victory in 27:44.0.
Such was her commanding display at the lead that she arrived well over a minute ahead of former World Junior 1500m champion, Irene Jelagat (28:28.7) to reclaim the Police crown.
In the gap year of the IAAF World Cross, the competition was shorn of some of the stellar runners who have made the Police meet a mouth-watering prospect including last year’s winner, Lucy Kabuu, world marathon champion, Edna Kiplagat and three-time World Cross silver winner, Linet Masai among others.
“Today was easy,” Kiplagat admitted and in all honesty, she was spot on. “For now, my aim is getting close to the world record in the half marathon as possible when I compete at the Barcelona Half.”
“For now, it has not been confirmed whether I will go there but I’m ready to try and get near Mary Keitany’s (1:05:50) record. Then from there, I will see which Majors marathon to run but for now, I’m not thinking about the world record (at the distance) since I’m yet to train for it,” the two-time Berlin winner who harbours keen interest in being invited for the April London Marathon explained.
In her wake, Jelagat, who has competed for her nation at the 2009 and 2011 World Championships without much distinction held off the charging Edith Chelimo (28:32.8), sixth here last year, to catch the bouquet.
Janet Kisa, the fifth at the Punta Umbria World Cross (Junior) clocked 28:54.8 to slip down a place to fourth as the veteran Isabella Ochichi, 34, the 2004 Olympics 5000m silver winner and 2006 Commonwealth titleholder at the same distance, turned back the clock to close the top five in 28:56.3.
Attention in the domestic cross country season now turns to the Kenya Prisons championships next Saturday at Nairobi’s Uhuru Gardens.
-By Kimathi Kamau
Following are the results of the races:
1. Florence Kiplagat EASTERN 27:44.0
2. Irene Jelagat DOG UNIT 28:28.7
3. Edith Chelimo TRAFFIC 28:32.8
4. Janet Kisa NYANZA 28:54.8
5. Isabella Ochichi KAPU 28:56.3
6. Ann Cheptanui KAPU 29:37.7
7. Beatrice Chepchumba KAPU 29:40.0
8. Esther Chemutai CENTRAL 29:47.7
9. Hellen Nzembi GSU 29:58.0
10. Monica Wangare CID 30:10.7
1. Geoffrey Kipsang WESTERN 36:45.7
2. Geoffrey Mutai CID 37:26.0
3. Augustine Choge TRAFFIC 37:27.3
4. Josephat Bett CENTRAL 38:02.3
5. Joseph Kitur WESTERN 38:09.0
6. Philemon Rono N/EASTERN 38:11.3
7. Bernard Kipkemoi GUEST 38:16.4
8. Nicholas Togom DOG UNIT 38:18.3
9. Isaiah Kiplangat WESTERN 38:30.5
10. Joseph Kiptum N/EASTERN 38:34.5