NAIROBI, Kenya, January 16 – Geoffrey Kirui and little known Selah Jepleting upset top athletes to be crowned the 35th Kenya Defence Forces Cross-Country champions at Nairobi’s Kahawa barracks on Friday.
Kirui, who finished 12th at the 2013 IAAF world cross-country championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, sprinted at the homestretch to beat reigning Frankfurt marathon champion Mark Kiptoo as defending champion Leonard Oliotiptip settled third.
Running under windy conditions, Korir stormed into the lead in the four-kilometer point as Vincent Kiprop and Kiptoo kept falling off the pace before it turned out to be anybody’s race between the three as they approached the final 2km.
Kirui then employed an electric pace to win the 12km race in 35:58.0 with Kiptoo a second further back while Oloitiptip came in six seconds later to finish third.
“I cannot believe I have beaten these strong runners though I woke in good form. I had trained well and that’s why I could keep up the high pace. I hope to make it to the Kenyan team for the World Cross-Country” Kirui, 39-year-old based at the Moi Airbase said after the win.
Kiptoo said: “I had encouraging team members but, as a marathoner, I could not outsmart these young athletes. If I get selected into the national team to the IAAF World Championships, I will keep focus as usual.
“Here I competed with Kirui, who is 15 years younger than me but I tell you age counts for nothing. It’s just about experience and preparation as well as focus and commitment. Anyone can win irrespective of age.”
In the corresponding 8Km women race, Jepleting who bowed out in the 1500m semi-final at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, braved up to cut the tape in 26:25.5.
Jepleting was irresistible, pushing hard from two kilometers to take her third victory this season –after Nyahuru and Machakos Athletics Kenya Cross-Country meetings.
Favorite Half Marathon champion Gladys Cherono, returned second in 26:25.7 as New York Marathon runner-up Jemimah Chelagat (26:47.2) sealed the podium finish.
“This is my year. Watch out. I have been doing 300m intervals to sharpen my speed and I now target the world cross-country championships,” Jepleting who is based in Lanet stated.
Cherono, who was seeking to reclaim the title she last won two years ago, said she was gauging her speed ahead her 42Km debut at the Dubai marathon next week while Chelagat prepares for London Marathon set for April.
Kenya Defence Forces provisional squad for National Cross-Country Championships.
Men: Geoffrey Kirui, Mark Kiptoo, Leonard Oleitiptip, Kiplimo Kimutai, John Chepkwony, Steven Arita.
Women: Selah Jepleting, Gladys Cherono, Jemimah Chelagat, Veronica Nyaruai, Doris Changeiwo, Fridah Mwikali.