Kenya’s Leonard Patrick Komon and Priscah Jepleting grabbed victories at the ‘65th Cross Internacional Juan Muguerza’ which was held Sunday (13) on what was a windy and cold day.
While the 20-year-old Komon was an overwhelming men’s race victor, the reigning World 5000m bronze medallist Jepleting outsprinted Ethiopia’s Wude Yimer in the closing stages to take the women’s race with a more narrow triumph.
Replacement athlete takes emphatic win
The race organisation had on Friday (11) received the sad news that Kenya’s pre-race favourite Moses Mosop had had to withdraw. The reigning World Cross Country silver medallist could not travel to Elgoibar because of the ongoing crisis in his homeland. His management company released the news that “Moses has fear to leave his family made up of wife, son and a brother. His fear is understandable and we mustn’t force him.”
In the early stages of the men’s 10.68km the race was led by Komon, a late addition to the field. Only Ethiopia’s Tadesse Tola managed to be at his shoulder by the 4km point while the Kenyan pair of Bernard Kiprop and Michael Kipyego plus Zimbabwean Cuthbert Nyasango were 7 seconds adrift.
A 2:47 fifth kilometre (14:45 overall) by Komon, the 2006 World Junior Cross Country silver medallist, killed the race dead. He very quickly built a massive margin of almost 100m on his opponents and he never relinquished that leading position.
In the fight for the minor places on the podium Tola faltered and was caught by the chasing trio of Kiprop, Kipyego and Nyasango by the 6km point.
The second half of the race became a magnificent solo display by Komon who extended his lead to a maximum gap of 16 seconds before entering the last 2km lap. With an impressive average pace of under 3:00 per kilometre the young Kenyan, who was fourth in the World Junior XC in Mombasa in 2007, romped home unopposed in 31:54.
By the tape, Komon had a 13-second advantage over Bernard Kiprop, the reigning World bronze medallist from Mombasa, who was himself seven seconds ahead of Nyasango who surprisingly beat Kipyego for the third place position. A fading Tola had to settle for fifth.
In the domestic battle Juan Carlos de a Ossa took sixth position 45 seconds behind Komon, beating fellow Spaniards Juan Carlos Higuero and Chema Martínez.
“This win at a senior level is extremely important for me,” said Komon. “I‘ll compete next Sunday at the IAAF XC permit in Seville and then I hope to make the Kenyan team for the Edinburgh Worlds at the National trials”.
Asked on his expectations for the track season Komon said “I feel comfortable over 3000 and 5000m and hope to contest the Beijing Olympics over the latter distance." Komon, a 13:04.12 5000m specialist celebrated his 20th birthday barely three days ago.
Jepleting over Yimer – women’s race
Not surprisingly, the women’s race was chiefly a Kenyan and Ethiopian affair. Priscah Jepleting was tipped as the main favourite but the start of the 6.47km contest witnessed a frantic early pace set by Russia’s Mariya Konovalova who covered the opening 400m lap on the track in a quick 1:11 to open a 15m gap over the African favourites.
By the 1500m point it was Jepleting who was the first to catch Konovalova – the first ever Russian competing in Elgoibar – and they were joined at the front by Ethiopia’s Wude Ayalew Yimer shortly afterwards. The 3km split was a fine 9:39 and Konovalova started to fade slightly with 11 minutes on the clock.
From then on Jepleting and Yimer – both top ten athletes from Mombasa – took turns in the lead but they could not shake the other off. The final sprint to the line didn’t offer any real surprises as Jepleting, the 2006 World Cross country silver medallist (short race), unleashed a powerful late burst of speed to easily defeat Yimer although both athletes were given the same finishing time.
Konovalova came in a distant and lonesome third, 20 seconds behind, but she was well ahead of Mombasa ninth place finisher, Eritrea’s Simret Sultan.
“Honestly, it has not been a tough win,” declared the Eldoret-based Jepleting. “I have scheduled my next appearance for next Sunday’s IAAF race in Seville and then I hope to improve on my seventh place from last year at the World Cross.”
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF
1. Leonard Patrick Komon (Kenya) 31:54
2. Bernard Kiprop Kypyego (Kenya) 32:07
3. Cuthbert Nyasango (Zimbabwe) 32:14
4. Michael Kipyego (Kenya) 32:18
5. Tadesse Tola (Ethiopia) 32:19
6. Juan Carlos de la Ossa (Spain) 32:39
7. Juan Carlos Higuero (Spain) 32:44
8. Chema Martínez (Spain) 32:46
9. Tom Humprhies (Great Britain) 33:16
10. Antonio Núñez (Spain) 33:27
1. Priscah Jepleting (Kenya) 21:19
2. Wude Ayalew Yimer (Ethiopia) 21:19
3. Mariya Konovalova (Russia) 21:39
4. Simret Sultan (Eritrea) 22:26
5. Rachel Townsend (Great Britain) 22:35
6. Rosa Morató (Spain) 22:38
7. Meraf Batha (Eritrea) 22:40
8. Alesandra Aguilar (Spain) 22:42
9. Diana Martín (Spain) 22:45
10. María José del Toro (Spain) 23:59