Experience counted little at the Tusker Kenya National Cross Country Championships at sea level Mombasa today on a course which will host the 35th IAAF World Championships where renowned runners were vanquished by emerging talents while Dutchwoman Lorna Kiplagat won her first race in Kenya in five years.
The weather was perfect, mildly warm in early morning although it progressively became unbearable by 11.00am in time for the senior men's race.
Former Africa 3000 metres Steeplechase silver medallist Richard Matelong won the 12km men's race ahead of Gideon Ngatunyi, a member of the Kenya Chiba Ekiden winning team.
Dominating performance for Kiplagat at home away from home
And for Kiplagat, her decision to test the course last month paid dividends, by beating her former compatriots with ease, grabbing the lead with 500 metres to go with fierce intent that Nzembi Musyoka and Fridah Domongole failed to respond to.
Yet it was Domongole, winner of the Sardinia International Trofeo Sarda Cross last December and current Pune Half-Marathon champion Musyoka who did most of the front running although Kiplagat was never far behind.
Kiplagat, who skipped the Dutch championships on Saturday, sprinted to victory in 27:02.4. Musyoka jostled for second which she bagged in yet another sprint on the home stretch to clock 27:07.0 while Domongole posted 27:09.6.
Kiplagat who announced she will now travel to Perto Rico for the World Greatest 10k, said her decision to visit Mombasa in January was wise. "Winning at home away from home was really nice," said Kiplagat, decribed as a one-woman demolition squad in Mombasa.
"I took a lot of water as a precaution although the humidity was not as offensive as I had anticipated," said Kiplagat, much loved here.
The three girls broke away from the rest at mid stage and remained like that until the end.
Matelong ensnares Ngatunyi
For the first time at the nationals, the powerful North Rift and Armed Forces runners were forced to eat humble pie by fast emerging powerhouses of Nyanza South and Police with Nyatunyi's gun-to-tape race plan being spoilt by Matelong of Police on the home stretch. Both athletes had remained with a tight pack of eight for 6km but then the race started to take proper shape.
Twice World championships silver medallist Patrick Ivuti and Charles Kamathi, a bronze medallist in the 2001 World championships, were soon dropped while Armed Forces champion Charles Chebon and Vincent Yator mounted a gallant fight to no avail.
The first three had already taken control and the question was who between them would eventually prevail in the then-hot conditions that affected most runners because of dehydration.
Matelong, winner of the Kenya Police Championships, recently proved to have the better kick which he unleashed with 200m to go and sprinted to victory in 36:36.0. Gatunyi, posted 36:41.9 as Mark Kiptoo romped home in third in 36:57.2.
"I decided to keep behind Ngatunyi to keep him guessing and decided to attack while I still had enough reserve of energy," said Matelong, one of the fast emerging cross country runners from Kenya's rank and file.
Vincent Kiprop, Abel Kiprop and Felix Kibor sorted themselves out in a photo finish in the junior men's race. Vincent dipped first to win in 23:54.1 followed by Abel (23:54.5) and Yator who had led until a few metres in the end settled for third in 23:56.4.
Kamene Muia from Southern, a semi arid area nearly as hot as Mombasa, felt much at home in the junior women's race to overcome a series challenge from Pamela Losoreng to win in 20:49.7 which was marginally faster than Losoreng's 20:50.0.
Peter Njenga (Daily Nation) for the IAAF
Top Results -
Senior men 12km:
1. Richard Matelong, Police, 36:36.0
2. Gideon Ngatunyi, Nyanza South, 36:41.9
3. Mark Kiptoo, Armed Forces, 36:57.2
4. Patrick Nthiwa, South Rift, 37:16.5
5. Thomas Longosiwa, Police, 37:25.4
6. William Chebon, Armed Forces, 37:33.7
Junior men 8km:
1. Vincent Kiprop, North Rift, 23:54.1
2. Abel Kiprop, North Rift, 23:54.5
3. Vincent Yator, North Rift, 23:56.5
4. Felix Kibor, Western, 24:00.3
5. Edwin Kipkorir, Nyanza South, 24:01.6
6. Nzau Mwangangi, Southern, 24:09.0
Senior women 8km:
1. Lorna Kiplagat, Netherlands, 27:02.4
2. Hellen Musyoka, Southern, 27:07.0
3. Fridah Domongole, Armed Forces, 27:09.6
4. Phylis Ongori, Nyanza South, 27:28.3
5. Gladys Kemboi, North Rift, 27:34.6
6. Anne Cheptanui, North Rift, 27:35.6
Junior women 6km:
1. Kamene Muia, Southern, 20:49.7
2. Pamela, Losoreng, North Rift, 20:50.0
3. Pauline Mutwa, Southern, 20:50.7
4. Mercy Cherono, South Rift, 20:55.4
5. Mary Wacera, Central, 21:03.2
6. Helen Chebet, South Rift, 21:04.3