In perhaps the most fitting way to wrap up one of the most decorated years in Kenya's glittering athletics history, the sixth Kenya Commercial Bank/AK National Cross Country meeting (18) attracted a record number of entries for a domestic event.
After roughly two hours of enthralling competition, this series had its first three-peat winner in Faith Chepnge'tich, World XC fourth placer, who won the women's junior 6km.
In the men's long race, Mathew Kisorio, twice a World XC sixth placer, gave series jackpot leader, Charles Kibet, a graduating junior who was 11th in Bydgoszcz, a lesson in finishing.
Toronto Marathon champ, Sharon Cherop topped World Cross fourth finisher, Lineth Chepkurui in the women's long race as new find, Philemon Rono became the first runner in the 2010/2011 Kenyan domestic cross circuit to score a double victory in the men's 8km.
Dry and windy conditions greeted runners at the Nyahururu Golf Course grounds in a course that had steep inclines.
SENIOR MEN 12KM RACE
The start was chaotic. Apparently, some runners had registered as juniors since swelling numbers of entries had compelled race officials to close entries. According to legitimate figures, 228, a record number of entries for a single race in a local meet bar the selection event for World Cross was to face the gun but starters counted 291!
Hence, when John 'Warm-up' Mwithiga, a veteran national cross country coach gave his famed 'warm-up' pre-race clarion call to the athletes, the crowded field responded by zooming off like a rocket and the race had to be recalled with some having done almost a kilometre!
Elements who had entered using junior race bibs were blamed for the brouhaha, with only Africa, Continental Cup and Commonwealth Steeplechase titleholder, Richard Mateelong remaining behind after the false start.
When the action finally got underway, Olympic 1500m champion, Asbel Kiprop, and his friend Shadrack Kosgei took the crowded field through the opening 2km loop in blistering speed.
Only Matthew Kisorio, Charles Kibet who was second in the 2nd KCB/AK meet in Kipkelion, winner in Kapsakwony and again runner-up in the fourth running in Kisii and veteran steeplechaser, Abraham Cherono (elder brother to World steeplechase record holder, Saaeed Saif Shaheen) could keep-up with the searing pace.
Behind them World Junior 10,000m champion, Denis Masai and Kipkoech Cherono attempted to hang on.
With Kiprop and Kosgei ending their races at the 4km mark, the rest of the leading pack stayed together until the bell when Kibet moved past Kisorio, the pair having opened a sizeable gap on Abraham Cherono who in turn, opened a gap on Masai and Kipkoech Cherono.
With the finish in sight, Kisorio pulled alongside Kibet before, pulling clear for victory in 34:52.01 in the final 100m.
"I lost at the Trials for Poland (2010 WXC) and this made me step up training since I want to be in the team for Spain (2011 WXC)," said Kibet, who romped home in 34:52.05.
"Kisorio was very strong today but what made it difficult to beat here was his experience,'' said Kibet who was denied the win in Kisii a fortnight ago by another 'old hand' the Mombasa junior silver winner, Vincent Chepkok.
Masai (35:37.00), a younger brother to Worlds women 5000m champion, Linet and elder Moses, who took bronze in Berlin over men's 10,000m failed to dislodge Abraham Cherono (35:23.05) from the final podium place as the other less known Kipkoech Cherono (35:40.06) took fifth.
WOMEN 8KM WOMEN
Another bumper entry of 110 runners got set to compete among them, 2006 World Cross junior champ, Pauline Korikwiang, Mercy Cherono who emulated her in Bydgoszcz, 1997 10,000m gold medallist Sally Barsosio, as well as Grace Wanjiru, and World Cross campaigners Lineth Chepkurui and Ðoris Changeiywo.
However, Toronto Marathon champion, Sharon Cherop, had other ideas as she breezed to commanding victory in 26:13.00.
“I came here for speed work since I’m preparing for Boston Marathon. My bigger goal is to be selected in the Kenyan team for (2011) World Championships in Korea,” said Cherop who headed Chepkurui (26:25.07) when both Armed Forces colleagues sprinted clear of the field from the gun.
“I’m grateful for this performance and I’m working to be in shape for the Trials for World Cross. I will not mind competing again since I love the event,” said Chepkurui.
Korikwiang, finished a strong third (26:50.06) leaving Cherono (26:55.08), who won the second leg in Kipkelion on her debut, to be satisfied with fourth.
“The course was difficult and windy but I must say today was when I learned what competing against seniors is all about,” Cherono, who also holds the World junior 3000m title offered.
MEN 8KM JUNIOR RACE
If Marakwet born Philemon Rono failed to serve notice of his rich talent when he won the fifth meet in Kisii, he gave another winning reminder of his abilities when he rose to become the first athlete in this race to bag two victories.
Rono, who cleared his O-Levels at Kapcherop Secondary School last year, was peerless in a deep field of 187 starters when he led Isaac Langat (23:29.00) and Nicholas Togom (23:21.03) across the tape to chalk victory in 22:23.01.
“Things are progressing well, I can only hope this lands me in Spain (2011 WXC),” the winner stated. Togom, a younger brother to Kisorio, won this race at the second meeting in Kipkelion.
WOMEN 6KM JUNIOR RACE
Faith Chepng’etich made it three wins out of the three races she has entered when she broke clear of challengers Naomi Chemoi and Sheila Chepn’getich to breast the tape in 20:02.03 with a sustained kick over the last 800m.
Chepng’etich’s impressive shape led her to triumph at the first meet in Tala as well as at the fourth event in Embu. Chemoi (20:13.02) and Chepng’etich (20:17.04) closed out the podium with Alice Aprot (20:24.05), a niece to World Cross senior men titleholder Joseph Ebuya, in fourth in a race where 113 entered.
Charles Kibet (men 12km senior) and Alice Aprot (junior women) have a stake at the $20,000 (Sh1m) series jackpot after meeting the requirement of entering four meetings and scoring points. They also gained an automatic ticket to contest at the National Championships in February.
Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF
1. Mathew Kisorio 34:52.01
2. Charles Kibet 34:52.05
3. Abraham Cherono 35:23.05
4. Denis Masai 35:37.00
5. Kipkoech Cherono 35:40.06
Women senior 8km
1. Sharon Cherop 26:13.00
2. Lineth Chepkurui 26:25.07
3. Pauline Korikwiang 26:50.06
4. Mercy Cherono 26:55.08
5. Doris Changeiywo 27:02.00
Men junior 8km
1. Philemon Rono 22:23.01
2. Isaac Langat 23:21.03
3. Nicholas Togom 23:29.00
4. Henry Kiprotich 23:35.00
5. Clement Kemboi 23:39.03
Junior Women 6km
1. Faith Chepng'etich 20:02.03
2. Naomi Cheboi 20:13.02
3. Sheila Chepng'etich 20:17.04
4. Alice Aprot 20:24.05
5. Caroline Chepkoech 20:25.08