Running under sunny skies, Kenyan Thomas Longosiwa took the win in the men’s 8.6 km at the 34th edition of the International Cross della Vallagarina near Rovereto beating Ethiopian Zalalem Bacha and Kenyan Paul Sugut on Sunday (16).
The women’s 5.5 km race went to Ethiopian 3000metres Steeplechase specialist Ferte Alemu Birtukane ahead of Italian Nadia Ejjaffini and former European Cross Country champion Tatyana Holovchenko from Ukraine.
Men’s race –
Longosiwa, Bacha, Sugut, Ukraine’s former European Junior Cross Country and 10,000m champion Vasyl Matvichuk and Wilson Businei from Uganda formed the lead pack in the early stages of the race held on a difficult up-and-down course.
After a slow start in the first of five laps Matvichuk was the first runner to take the initiative followed by Longosiwa and Bacha.
Barcha and Longosiwa went to the front and increased the pace during the second lap. Businei and Sugut followed in the chasing group while Matvichuk faded back to fifth. Italian Stefano La Rosa, 10th at the European Championships in Barcelona, also ran in the chasing group.
Longosiwa and Barcha broke away increasing their gap over Sugut to 50 metres. They ran a neck-to-neck race during the penultimate lap until Longosiwa launched his kick which proved to be decisive.
Bacha tried to hold off Longosiwa’s attack but had to surrender to the latter’s kick in the last lap.
Langosiwa, who clocked 12:51.95 in the 5000m and 7:32.79 in the 3000m and ran the Olympic final in the 5000m Beijing 2008, ran a very strong last lap opening up a gap of 50 metres over Bacha. Longosiwa romped home in 26:06 beating the Ethiopian by 17 seconds.
Sugut finished third in 26:37, while Stefano La Rosa prevailed in a close battle for fourth place in the final sprint in 26:46 over Businei and Matvichuk.
“It was a difficult course with ups and downs but I ran a fine race. It was a good test in preparation for the track season where my goal is to set my PBs in the 3000 and 5000 metres”, said Longosiwa, a training partner of Silas Kiplagat, the world leader in the 1500m in 2010.
The last Kenyan winner in the Vallagarina Cross Country race was Wilson Kiprop who took the honours in 2008 and 2009 and went on to win the 10,000m African Championships title in Nairobi and the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Nanning in 2010.
Women’s race -
Holovchenko, fifth at the European Cross Country Championships last December in Albufeira, went to the front with Ejjafini, Birtukan and Rwanda’s Angeline Nyransambimana in the early stages of the race.
Twenty-year-old Birtukan, Holovchenko and Nyransambimana increased the pace forming the leading trio. Ejjafini, a Moroccan-born runner who has become Italian citizen due to marriage and gave birth to her daughter five months ago, managed to keep the pace with the leading trio.
During the second lap Ejjafini took the lead on a downhill section of the course. Only Birtukane managed to follow, while Holovchenko and Nyransambimana lost ground.
Ejjafini, who holds a 1:10:38 PB in the Half-Marathon, led at the bell ahead of Birtukan, but at the beginning of the last lap the 20-year-old Ethiopian broke away from Ejjafini building a gap of 10 seconds and continued to increase her lead to take the second Ethiopian win in a row in the Vallagarina Cross country race.
Birtukan, who won the 3000m Steeplechase silver at the World Junior Championships last year, hails from Bekoji and started running at the age of 14. She has a 9:31.39 career best but aims at improving to 9:15 next summer.
The tradition of the Vallagarina Cross Country race began in 1978 some months after local runner Cristina Tomasini finished fifth at the 1977 World Cross Country Championships in Dusseldorf, the best ever result by an Italian in these Championships.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
Leading Results -
1 Thomas Longosiwa (Kenya) 26:06
2 Zalalem Bacha (Ethiopia) 26:23
3 Paul Sugut (Kenya) 26:37
4 Stefano La Rosa (Italy) 26:46
5 Wilson Businei (Uganda) 26:48
6 Vasyl Matvichuk (Ukraine) 26:49
7 Houssaine Oukhrin (Morocco) 26:50
8 Yuriy Floriani (Italy) 26:51
9 Stefano Scaini (Italy) 26:52
10 Eric Sebahire (Rwanda) 27:01
1 Fente Alemu Birtukan (Ethiopia) 18:56
2 Nadja Ejjafini (Italy) 19:10
3 Tatyana Holovchenko (Ukraine) 19:24
4 Lalla Soufiane (Italy) 19:32
5 Asmae Ghislane (Morocco) 19:41
6 Angeline Nyransabimana (Rwanda) 19:45
7 Angela Rinicella (Italy) 19:49
8 Ivana Iozzia (Italy) 20:06
9 Barbara La Barbera (Italy) 20:15
10 Silvia La Barbera (Italy) 20:21