SPAIN, January 11 – Mercy Cherono achieved a comfortable victory at the 62nd edition of the Cross Internacional Zornotza in Amorebieta on Sunday.
Following a track season in which she lowered her 1500m and 5000m PBs to 4:01.26 and 14:34.10 respectively, Cherono finished fourth over 6km at last weekend’s Campaccio meeting in Italy.
But in the Spanish town of Amorebieta she stepped up in distance to win the women’s 8.7km in 31:50. In doing so, she became the ninth Kenyan winner of this race in 10 years.
Cherono didn’t yield her position after taking control of the race going into the second kilometre, although her task was made easier by the absence of reigning three-time winner Magdalene Masai, who was a late withdrawal.
Britain’s Jessica Andrews ran in isolation for the most part but the 23-year-old finished ahead of a strong brace of domestic runners to claim a surprise runner-up spot in 32:06.
Veteran Iris Fuentes-Pila was the leading Spanish finisher in third in 32:13 just ahead of Lidia Rodriguez (32:14) and Diana Martin (32:15).
The men’s 9.5km was dominated by a trio of Ugandans who finished nearly one minute ahead of the rest of the field.
Reigning champion Timothy Toroitich hit the front at the start of the bell lap but the 24-year-old was overhauled in the closing stages by his in-form teammate Thomas Ayeko.
Ayeko, who was only recruited to compete in Amorebieta some 48 hours before the race, stopped the clock at 29:33. Toroitich dropped some 14 seconds back with Moses Kibet third in 29:50 to comprise an all-Ugandan podium.
A day after racing in Edinburgh where he finished 14th, Ayad Lamdassem had enough left in the tank to claim the domestic spoils in sixth in 30:54.
Rono among the winners in Sotik
Vincent Rono prevailed in the senior men’s race at the seventh and final leg of the AK/KCB Series held in Sotik on Saturday.
The 25-year-old mainly plies his trade as a pacemaker on the commercial circuit but racing on his own accord on an undulating 10km course at Kabianga University, Rono ground out victory in 28:47 by three seconds ahead of youngster Dominic Kiptarus.
“It took a lot of endurance but my kick did the work. I’m glad to have won to state my case ahead of the National Championships,” said Rono, whose goal is to make the Kenyan team for the African Cross Country Championships staged in Yaounde, Cameroon on 12 March.
Renowned track athletes Isiah Koech and Paul Kipsiele Koech finished eighth and 14th respectively while two-time world 10,000m bronze medallist Paul Tanui was reported to have dropped out.
In the women’s race, which was also staged over the same distance, little-known Damaris Areba won in 34:07 ahead of Joyline Jepkosgei (34:15) and Gladys Koech (34:20).
Sandra Chebet chalked up another win in the junior women’s 6km in 19:06 while Ronald Kiprotich won the junior men’s 8km in 22:45.