Report Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Merga and Kebede take the spoils in Ethiopian Clubs XC

Imane Merga of Ethiopia crosses the finish line to win the men's senior race in Punta Umbria (Getty Images)Imane Merga of Ethiopia crosses the finish line to win the men's senior race in Punta Umbria (Getty Images) © Copyright

4 December 2012 – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – Reigning World cross-country champion Imane Merga and the 2012 Real Berlin Marathon winner Aberu Kebede were the winners of the men’s and women’s senior races at the 3rd Ethiopian Clubs Cross-Country Championships held at the Jan Meda race course on Sunday (December 2).

Zelalem Bacha and Gotytom Gebreslase took the junior titles in competitive men’s and women’s races as early contenders staked their claim for selection to Ethiopia’s team for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships next year.

Merga hangs on to take vital win

There was surprise when defending World cross-country champion Imane Merga trotted on the start line to start the men’s 12km race on Sunday in a race usually positioned for young runners to provide a glimpse of their early-season form.

But lining up for his club, Defence, in their bid to win the overall team title, Merga wanted to use the race as a test for his recovery from a spate of injuries that marred his 2012 outdoor track campaign, including missing the 2012 London Olympic Games. He did just that here with a comfortable victory over World marathon bronze medallist Feyisa Lilesa with Gemechu Edao finishing third.

“I have been training hard after the track campaign and this proves that I have recovered well,” Merga told reporters after the race. “My aim this season is to defend my title in the World Cross and win a medal in Moscow.”

Kebede continues rich vein of form

In the women’s 8km race, Aberu Kebede was even more dominant against the All-African Games 5000m and 10000m champion Sule Utura, whose record at the World Cross Country Championships includes a fourth-place finish in the junior race in Mombasa in 2007.

Having won a close battle with Tsegereda Girma in the 2012 CBE Great Ethiopian Run 10km last week and the Real Berlin Marathon in September, Kebede started the race as the hot favourite. She took the lead just after the half-way point and never relinquished it before crossing the line 20:26, six seconds ahead of Utura with Ethiopian-born Bahraini Olympian Shitaye Eshetu finishing third.

“I knew Sule was very strong in cross country, but I have been training well,” said Kebede.

Elshadai Negash (with the assistance of Bizuayehu Wagaw) for the IAAF

Leading results

Men's senior 12km
1 Imane Merga (Defence) 35:41
2 Feyisa Lilesa (Defence) 36:05
3 Gemechu Edao (Federal police) 36:11

Women's senior 8km
1 Aberu Kebede (Federal Prison) 20:26
2 Sule Utura (Defence) 20:32
3 Shitaye Eshetu (BRN) 20:38

Men's junior 8km
1 Zelalem Bacha (CBE) 23:31
2 Aweke Ayalew (CBE) 23:45
3 Abere Dres (EEPCO) 23:47

Women's junior 6km
1 Gotytom Gebreslase (Mesfin Engineering) 20:26
2 Sara Girmay (Mesfin Engineering) 20:32
3 Alemitu Hawi (CBE) 20:38