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Koech outkicks Tergat to win in Nairobi stage of IAAF Cross Challenge

Koech outkicks Tergat to win Nairobi stage of IAAF Cross Challenge
Paul Koech outkicked archrival Paul Tergat on Saturday to win the IAAF Nairobi Cross-Country Challenge, a Kenyan tuneup for next month's world championships in Belfast.Tergat, 29, the reigning world cross-country champion, was favoured to win the 12-kilometer (7.4-mile) race, which doubled as the Kenyan national championships, but he couldn't match Koech's reservoir of stamina in the scorching heat.

Koech won with a time of 36 minutes, 35 seconds, with Tergat second at 36:43. World 3,000-meter steeplechase recordholder Bernard Barmasai of Kenya was a close third at 36:47, and Kenyan Tom Nyariki, the current leader of the IAAF Cross Challenge series, finished fourth at 36:48.

A jovial Koech was ecstatic about his victory. "I thank God for giving me strength to win the race," he said. "My major goal is to win the World Cross Country Championships for the first time. I'll be the happiest man on Earth."

While Koech has remained dominant at home, he has yet to beatTergat in the World Championships, to be held this year on 27-28 March in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In Morocco last year, Koech placed second behind Tergat, who has won the title for four consecutive years."My main rivals are my fellow Kenyans, especially Nyariki and Koech," Tergat said Saturday.Kenyans took the first 20 placesin the men’s 12km race.

Kenyans swept the Top 10 in the women's eight-kilometre competition, led by winner Agnes Kiprop with a time of 27:48. Jane Omoro was second at 28:17, and Jane Ngotho clinched third place with 28:25. Commonwealth Games 1500m champion Jacqueline Maranga (currently third in the Cross Challenge rankings) was a distant seventh with 29:04.

Athletes from 18 countries were represented Saturday, but they failed to contain the super-fit Kenyans. Most of the foreign athletes complained of the heat and the high altitude, which they said favoured their hosts.

Zimbabwe's Samukeliso Moyo was the best-placed foreigner, in the women’s race, finishing 10th in 29:20.
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