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Kisa leads Kenyan sweep at Campaccio

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JANET KISA

ITALY, January 7 – Kenya’s Janet Kisa led compatriots Peris Jepchirchir and Besty Saina to a podium sweep on Tuesday in the women’s Campaccio cross-country race, the first of two Italian IAAF Cross Country Permit meetings.

USA’s Dathan Ritzenhein held off 2012 European cross-country champion Andrea Lalli to win in 29:08 with the latter’s Italian compatriot Daniele Meucci, the European marathon champion, completing the podium.

It was two Italian victories in a row for Kisa, one week after winning at the BOclassic when she won from Jepchirchir in 19:00 as Saina completed the sweep in third.

-Kisa leads historic sweep-

Kisa, an African 5000m bronze medallist, Jepchirchir, Saina and Ethiopian junior Etegan Woldu dominated the women’s race, taking the lead from the outset with a comfortable margin over the chasing trio formed by rising Italian 1500m talent Federica Del Buono, Belgium’s Almensh Belete and USA’s Neely Spence.

The African quartet had a 10-second lead at halfway when they produced their decisive surge. After going through 4km in 12:54, the Kenyans pulled away from Woldu on the last lap.

The race came down to the final 200 metres when Kisa launched her kick, holding off Jepchirchir by one second in 19:00, just one second off Hiwot Ayalew’s course record set last year.

It was the first time that Kenya had achieved a 1-2-3 finish in the women’s race at Campaccio.

“It was a good race, but it was too windy,” said Commonwealth 5000m silver medallist Kisa, who hopes to challenge for the medals at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang March 28.

Saina crossed the finish-line in third place in 19:04, while Woldu, the first junior across the line, finished a distant fourth in 19:45, 11 seconds ahead of Spence.

-Ritzenhein defeats host nation’s heroes-

The early leading group comprised Meucci, Ritzenhein, Lalli, European steeplechase silver medallist Krysztian Zalewski, fellow Pole Tomasz Szykowiak, Italy’s Ahmed El Mazoury, Patick Nasti and Canada’s Mo Ahmed as they went through the first kilometre in a conservative 3:09.

At 2km, Meucci, Ritzenhein, Lalli, El Mazoury, Ahmed, Nasti and Zalewski remained in the front, but just four remained as the leaders approached 5km in 14:49, led by Ahmed, Ritzenhein, Lalli and Meucci.

On the penultimate lap, former US 5000m record-holder Ritzenhein pushed the pace, but Lalli and Meucci were still with him at 7km with just 3km to go.

At 8km, multiple European cross-country gold medallist Lalli edged ahead with Ritzenhein close behind with one lap remaining as Meucci was finally dropped.

On the final lap, the race came down to a spectacular neck-and-neck race between Ritzenhein and Lalli.

In the closing kilometre, former world half-marathon bronze medallist Ritzenhein managed to open up a gap of one second on his Italian rival. Despite the strong support for Lalli from the local crowd, Ritzenhein held on the clinch the win in 29:08.

“I’m very happy as I have not run a cross-country race for a long time,” said Ritzenhein after recording his first victory on any surface since June 2012. “I am not in very good shape at the moment.

“Lalli and Meucci made it a very good race. Meucci took it out at the beginning, and then Lalli put it down in the middle.”

Ritzenhein became the first US athlete, man or woman, to win in the 58-year history of the Campaccio meeting.

On a great day of cross-country running, no fewer than 1500 runners from all ages and categories took part on a sunny with a temperature of 8°C.

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