NAIROBI, Kenya- Kenyan athletes scored polished double victories at the European IAAF Cross Country Permit meetings in Campaccio and Antrim to underline their distance running mastery over the weekend.
World 1500m silver medallist, Timothy Cheruiyot and James Kibet took the men’s honours as compatriots Margaret Chelimo and Lilian Kasait Rengeruk captured the women’s races in Antrim and Campaccio in that order.
At the 61st edition of the Campaccio on a rainy and cold day in San Giorgio su Legnano in Italy, Kibet won a close 10km race in 29:34 holding off Ethiopian Tesfaye Deriba and Olympic 5000m silver medallist Paul Chelimo of the USA in a thrilling final sprint.
In a similarly close women’s race, world cross-country bronze medallist Rengeruk edged world 10,000m bronze medallist Agnes Tirop by a second.
In the men’s showdown, pre-event favourite Chelimo went to the front after two laps in 12:06 closely followed by sevens in hot pursuit led by Kibet as Tesfaye closed the leading pack.
With 20 minutes on the clock, Filmon Ande of Eritreat forced the pace on the fourth lap and broke down the lead pack to six athletes.
The race went down to the wire with a sprint for the final 300 metres. Kibet and Tesfaye broke away from Chelimo and battled it out for the win with Kibet eventually getting the victory in 29:34, the same time as Tesfaye. Chelimo finished third in 29:38, beating Ande by two seconds.
“I did not think about winning the race but it was my dream to follow in the footsteps of the big stars who have won here in the past, like Paul Tergat and Haile Gebrselassie,” said Kibet, who set a 5000m PB of 13:11.88 at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Berlin last September.
“I followed my plan and stayed in the group before pulling away on the final lap,” added Kibet, who will now turn his attention to trying to qualify for Kenya’s team for the Commonwealth Games.
The women’s race produced an upset when World cross-country bronze medallist, Rengeruk trumped a deep field that had countrywomen; world 5000m champion Hellen Obiri and world 10,000m bronze medallist Agnes Tirop.
The Kenyans alongside Uganda’s Peruth Chemutai and Ethiopia’s Gete Alemayehu went to the front at the start of the women’s race, going through the first lap in 6:41.
Tirop then set the pace, going through the second lap in 9:48 while being closely followed by Rengeruk and Obiri.
When Tirop broke away on the final lap, Rengeruk was the only runner to keep up with her. Obiri, the defending champion, started to struggle in third place and was dropped.
Rengeruk and Tirop battled it out in the final sprint with 300 metres to go. Tirop took the lead in the back straight at the entrance of the Angelo Alberti athletics track but Rengeruk launched a kick to overtake her compatriot in the final straight, crossing the finish-line first in 19:02 to hold off Tirop by a second.
Gete took a surprising third place in 19:23, beating Obiri by five seconds.
“I did not expect to win against such a great field,” said Rengeruk, the 2013 world U18 3000m champion, who last year set PBs of 8:32.73 for 3000m and 14:36.80 for 5000m. “It was my first race of the year and I am happy that I started the season with a win.”
Rengeruk will compete at the IAAF Cross Country Permit races in Elgoibar and Seville later this month before attempting to qualify for Kenya’s 5000m team for the Commonwealth Games.
At the 41st running of the Antrim International in Greenmount, Cheruiyot and Chelimo ascended to the middle step of the podium in another show of supremacy.
On a day of calm and mild weather conditions at Greenmount’s College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise, Cheruiyot improved upon his third-place finish from 2016.
The Kenyan 1500m champion produced an excellent display to win by milliseconds from Ethiopia’s Mogos Tuemay.
Cheruiyot led a lead group of seven after the opening lap, with Antrim regular Andy Vernon in second spot, and Morocco’s world steeplechase silver medallist Soufiane Elbakkali in third.
In a sprint for the line, Cheruiyot managed to just hold off Tuemay for the victory with both athletes timed at 23:12.
“The course was OK; it wasn’t like it was in 2016. It was much better,” said Cheruiyot, the IAAF Diamond League 1500m champion. “Today was good. I like coming here, this was my third time.
“I was very confident at the end. It was difficult, though, with the muddy conditions.”
Cheruiyot’s focus will now turn to Kenya’s trials next month for the Commonwealth Games.
Winter and windy
“I won’t race before then,” he said. “I hope to go to the Commonwealth Games.”
Chelimo Kipkemboi became the third different Kenyan in as many years to win the women’s race in Antrim, finishing just a second ahead of Ethiopia’s Fotyen Tesfay in 19:55.
“The race was good,” said Chelimo Kipkemboi, who finished fifth over 5000m at the IAAF World Championships London 2017. “The climate here is winter and windy, while at home it’s summer and it is sunny.
“It was tough, but I am happy; this will be my last cross-country race in Europe. I’ve run three now in the build-up to the Commonwealth Games. I have trials for the Games next month and I will run in the 5000.”
Bahrain’s Bontu Edao Rebitu finished third in 19:59. Double European cross-country champion McCormack, who had been in touching distance throughout, took sixth spot in 20:22, 63 seconds and four places ahead of her younger sister Una Britton.
-Material from IAAF used to compile this report. Read more on athletics news here
1 James Kibet (KEN) 29:34
2 Tesfaye Deriba (ETH) 29:34
3 Paul Chelimo (USA) 29:38
4 Filmon Ande (ERI) 29:40
5 Mande Bushendich (UGA) 29:49
6 Yemaneberhan Crippa (ITA) 29:51
7 Sondre Nordstad Moen (NOR) 30:00
8 Abdi Bashir (BEL) 30:09
9 Joseph Gray (USA) 30:16
10 Eyob Gebrehiwet Faniel (ITA) 30:35
1 Lilian Rengeruk (KEN) 19:02
2 Agnes Tirop (KEN) 19:03
3 Gete Alemayehu (ETH) 19:23
4 Hellen Obiri (KEN) 19:28
5 Peruth Chemutai (UGA) 19:34
6 Muriel Coneo (COL) 20:24
7 Valeria Roffino (ITA) 20:29
8 Desirée Linden (USA) 20:44
9 Martina Merlo (ITA) 20:55
10 Matylda Kowal (POL) 21:01
1 Timothy Cheruiyot (KEN) 23:12
2 Mogos Tuemay (ETH) 23:12
3 Soufiane Elbakkali (MAR) 23:32
4 Andy Vernon (GBR) 23:41
5 Kristian Mark Jones (GBR) 23:45
6 Trevor Dunbar (USA) 24:12
1 Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi (KEN) 19:55
2 Fotyen Tesfay (ETH) 19:56
3 Bontu Edao Rebitu (BRN) 19:59
4 Verity Ockenden (GBR) 20:17
5 Alemitu Hawi (ETH) 20:17
6 Fionnuala McCormack (IRL) 20:22