Marathon runners Abera Chane and Koreni Jelila took surprising, but deserved victories over the pre-race favourites in the 2nd Sendafa Cross Country meeting on Sunday (15) in Sendafa, 40kms north of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
Chane surprises Merga
Sendafa was the site of the first cross country race of the domestic season which is also expected to feature races in Assela and Bahir Dar before the series wraps up in Sululta in mid-January.
Although many of the countries top cross country runners gave the race a miss, both the men’s 12km and women’s 8km races provided exciting action in front of the small rural town just outside Addis Ababa.
The favourite for the men’s race was Imane Merga, who finished fourth in the World championships 10,000m and won the 5000m at the IAAF World Athletics Final. But he, and the 70+ starting field, were shocked by little-known runner Abera Chane, who completed his remarkable comeback to action with a well deserved victory.
The 27-year-old, who was part of the Ethiopian cross country team that won team victory in the 2005 World Cross Country Championships in St. Etienne/ St. Galmier, France, spent the large chunk of the last four years competing in the Japanese corporate athletics setup and returning back home to nurse a career-threatening knee injury.
But yesterday he showed no signs of fatigue or ill-health as he took control of the six-lap contest around the midway point before taking victory in 35:40.75. Pre-race favourite Merga was even beaten to second place by Atalay Yersaw and ended nearly twenty seconds behind the race winner.
Jelila bests Utura
Like the men’s race, the women’s contest had a clear pre-race favourite with Sule Utura, the 2008 World junior 5000m champion and seventh in last year’s junior cross country, heading the other main challengers for the first two laps.
However, victory at the end belonged to Koreni Jelila who moved ahead around 3.5km before the finish to take a comfortable 11 second victory over Genet Yalew with Utura finishing third.
“I did not expect to win the race because I thought Sule would be fresher since I run a marathon four weeks ago,” said Jelila, who finished second in the Rome Marathon in October. “I just run here for my club (Defense) to help them win a trophy. This season, I am not planning to run cross country because my plans are to run fast in the marathon.”
The domestic running season continues next weekend with the staging of the 9th edition of the Great Ethiopian Airlines Run in Addis Ababa. The cross country season resumes in a fortnight in Assela.
Elshadai Negash for the IAAF
1. Abera Chane (Geta Zeru) 35:40.75
2. Atalay Yersaw (Defense) 35:44.20
3. Imane Merga (Defense) 36:00.01
1. Koreni Jelila (Defense) 26:59.35
2. Genet Yalew (Defense) 27:10.45
3. Sule Utura (Defense) 27:11.90