NAIROBI, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) — Ronald Kwemoi came of age when he outclassed a deep field to clinch the signature men’s 10km title as Sheila Chelagat soared in the women’s race at the 2021 Kenya Cross Country Championships in Nairobi on Saturday.
Gideon Rono and Purity Chepkirui topped the podium in the men’s Under-20 8km and women’s Under-20 6km races at the event where Kenya selected its team for the Africa Cross Country Championships in Lome, Togo on March 7.
World women’s 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri led her Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) team to clinch the mixed relay title ahead of South Rift and Kenya Prisons with the favored Kenya Police relegated to fourth.
With overcast skies, heavy underfoot and muddy conditions greeting the runners at the spiritual home of Kenya’s cross country running – Ngong Racecourse – in the outskirts of the capital, Kwemoi (Central Rift) delivered a signature victory in the men’s long race in stunning fashion.
The 2014 men’s 1,500m Africa Championship bronze winner tore up the script and upset the heavy favorites, three-time world cross champion Geoffrey Kamworor (Kenya Police) and titleholder Kibiwott Kandie when he completed the course in 32 minutes and 03 seconds after surging past the latter with half a lap to go.
“I went for it in the final lap after I saw Kandie was not going with me. I decided to stay behind the group and see how the leaders would run and when I saw they were tiring with two laps to go, I knew I had a chance,” the freshly-minted champion told reporters after the race.
Kandie (32:05) followed the winner home, just holding off South Rift’s Edwin Bett (32:11) who rounded off the podium in the final dash for the tape. Kamworor, a former multiple national cross titleholder, dropped out of the race, consumed by the muddy course.
Kwemoi, Kandie, and Bett will headline Kenya’s senior men’s 10km for the Lome Africa Cross.
Another former champion who found the Ngong course an insurmountable barrier was Bedan Karoki, the man who followed Kamworor home for silver at the 2016 World Half Marathon in Cardiff as he joined his rival in dropping out after two laps.
Powerhouses Police were redeemed in the women’s 10km race when former world Under-17 medallist Chelagat clocked 34:56 for victory ahead of Daisy Cherotich (35:01) and Ruth Chepng’etich (35:03) after detaching from the competitors with two laps to go to motor home.
Rono edged a three-way battle for the crown in the men’s 8km Under-20 showdown in dominant fashion, breaking the tape in 24:44 well clear of Benson Lagat (24:57) and Felix Korir (25:24) who led the challengers home in second and third.
The opening race of the day witnessed Chepkirui power ahead of the competition to stop the timer at 20:50 to lead the procession to Lome in the women’s Under-20 6km race.
Faith Chepkoech (21:17) was the bridesmaid as Feliciana Kanda closed the podium in 21:17. Enditem