NAIROBI, November 7 – Former Africa cross country Junior champion Caroline Chepkoech and Dominic Kiptarus won the first leg of the Athletics Kenya Cross-country meeting in Nairobi on Saturday.
Sandrafelis Chebet, the reigning World Youth steeplechase silver medallist chalked up the women 6km junior title while little known Alfred Ng’eno dominated the men’s 8km race.
Tackling the re-formatted women’s race that saw athletes contest in 10km from the usual 8Km, Chepkoech was simply in a class of her own as she won in 32:19.2 ahead of Nancy Nzisa (32:41.8) who crossed the line second while Visline Mulei (33:09.1) completed the podium.
The women’s senior race was tight to see a pack of five that included former Valencia Half Marathon champion, Alice Mogire take an early lead after two laps.
The pace was too much for Mogire who along with Pauline Wangui faded from the group to leave it a three battle race of Nzisa, Mulei and Chepkoech before the latter opened a gap with 2km to the tape.
“I was competing against people who have experience in road race so I decided to stay behind them and I’m happy it worked for me. When we remained three, I realised they were strong and that’s why I decided to open the gap.
“I’m happy to win my second race after coming from Injury. I’m hoping to make the team to Africa Cross Country next year,” Chepkoech who finished fourth at the 2013 Junior‘s World Cross stated after the win.
In the corresponding men’s race that was reduced from 12km to 10km, Kiptarus won in 28:08.5 to beat Bernard Kipkemoi (28:10.7) as Geoffrey Kimutai settled for third (28:13.3).
“The race was hard but I managed to conquer it. I didn’t start well but I picked up midway since the weather was favourable. I’ve won today but I need to work more on my speed work before Africa Cross Trials because I have the endurance,” Kiptarus who was competing in his first senior race since finishing fourth in Guiyang, China World Cross in the junior underlined.
In the opening race of the day, Chebet the holder of Ndalat Gaa clocked 18:53.1 to beat Immaculate Chepkurui (18:58.3 and Miriam Cherop (19:11.1).
Ng’eno on the other hand cruised to victory in 22:11.5 to floor Africa cross country silver medallist Andrew Lorot who finished second (22:19.6) while Joshua Nakeri was third (22:21.6).
Winners in the senior races received Sh10, 000 each while the top junior finishers walked home with Sh8, 000.
The AK Cross Country head to Kangaru in Embu for the second leg next weekend.