Nyahururu, KenyaThe fifth NBK/AK National Cross Country series meeting in Nyahururu on Saturday (3) served up new winners in the four categories after some of the expected top contenders failed to show-up, some no doubt put off by the soggy under foot conditions.
Another reason was that some of the key names were in Nairobi attending the second AK Golden Gala on Friday night (2) that saw 110 individuals among them 38 gold medallists from seven international events in 2011 honoured for their excellence.
Today's races played out at a waterlogged course at the Nyahururu Golf Club as heavy rains that had been pounding the country subsided to allow the meet to progress but runners still found the muddy surface formidable to navigate.
Paul Lonyangata (senior men), World Cross campaigner, Margaret Wangari (senior women), Justin Cheruiyot (junior men) and Mercy Kibowen helped themselves to top honours in the latest round of the seven meet series that attracted 426 starters in all four events.
SENIOR MEN - Lonyangata seizes the moment
The eagerly anticipated duel between series leader, Nicholas Togom (winner in Tala and Chepkoilel) and World junior indoor record holder, Isaiah Kiplangat Koech (winner Embu) failed to materialise after both runners who were penned for the showdown failed to turn-up. Timothy Too who ascended to the top of the podium in Kapsakwony and was billed to take part was also a no show.
Moncton World Juniors 10,000m bronze winner, Paul Lonyangata took full advantage of their absence in the keenly contested men’s long race that had 222 starters among them quality entrants that did justice to its status as the showstopper.
“The course was difficult but I felt strong as we came for the finish. This will encourage me to aim for better performances in the remaining races,” Lonyangata said after breasting the tape in 36:47.0.
Caleb Mwangangi, Bydgoszcz World Cross junior men winner and All Africa Games 1500m champion, Mark Kiptoo the overall Kenya captain at the 2009 Amman World Cross, and his team mate in Jordan the resurgent Linus Chumba, were among the pedigree runners at the start.
The race witnessed a furious start with the leaders going through the first 5km in 15:35 and as the race reached the business end, the marshy course slowed down the athletes.
Lonyanganta, who was making his first foray into senior running had Mwangangi, who finished fourth in the series opener in Tala (November 12), Kiptoo, Chumba, Simon Gichuki, Wilson Too, Reuben Limaa (fourth Embu) and Ezekiel Cherop, for company at that point.
The bunch held on together until the bell when the Moncton bronze winner made his move for the victory with 800m left as Chumba, who had finished runner-up in Tala and Embu gave hot pursuit.
At the close, the fleet footed Lonyangata used his superior finishing kick to deny Chumba (36:51.3), the soldier based at Embakasi, once again.
“He was faster in the last 200m but I’m satisfied with the result since I want to build-up for road running and the Africa Cross Country team next year,” said the winner.
Mwangangi came in third (37:10.0), with Laikipia Airbase based soldier Gichuki (37:10.7) close in his heels as team mate Kiptoo (37:13.0) returned in fifth as Limaa (37:20.5) settled for sixth.
SENIOR WOMEN - Home return for Nyaruai arrested by Wangari
There was a sentimental return to competition for home favourite, Veronica Nyaruai, the 2006 World Juniors 3000m gold winner and three-time World Cross junior medallist, who got the crowd buzzing in Kenya’s Central Province.
However, another potent cross runner, Margaret Wangari, who was sixth (senior race) in Bydgozcz and eighth Edinburgh editions of the World Cross and was born in the nearby town of Subukia, was also making a maiden appearance on this season’s domestic circuit.
On the stands, Lucy Kabuu, the winner of the series opener in Tala who won the New Delhi Half Marathon last weekend was a keen spectator, having decided against racing. “I have not recovered sufficiently to compete and that is why I decided to give them encouragement from here (the crowd),” said Kabuu.
It was evident from the third kilometre that Wangari, the Kenya Police officer, possessed far superior finesse and she rarely looked troubled as she seamlessly completed the victory in 27:42.9.
Fridah Chelagat, of Kenya Prisons service led the challengers’ home in 28:03.1, as Nyaruai showed glimpses of a comeback to her junior form when she came in third with 28:18.2.
“I have been training to recover after child birth and military training and today, I felt my body responding well and it is my hope I can return to the Kenyan team,” said Nyaruai, the Defence Forces Private based at Laikipia Airbase. Her last outing in Kenyan colours was at the Beijing Olympics when she registered a DNF in the women’s 3000m Steeplechase.
Monicah Wangare (28:28.8), Wanjiru Gatheru (28:34.2) and Monicah Nderitu (28:39.5) closed the top six.
JUNIOR MEN - Cheruiyot reigns
A new winner was set to be crowned in the junior men 8km race with top jackpot contenders World Youth 3000m champion, William Malel who topped in Tala and Chepkoilel before finishing second in Embu and Africa Cross titleholder, Japheth Korir (winner in Embu, second Chepkoilel and fourth Tala) absent as they were in Nairobi to receive awards at the AK Golden Gala.
Leonard Barsoton, the victor in Kapsakwony was also missing and consequently, Justine Cheruiyot, the 14th finisher in Punta Umbria, soared to the tape unchallenged in 24:05.5. The winner completed a solo run for the win after he set loose from the field at the 6th kilometre as Albert Rop’s determined but ultimately futile chase rewarded him with the runners-up slot in 24:12.5 as home runner, Johana Maina (24:31.7) who was third in Embu, repeating his podium position.
Bernard Muia who placed sixth in Embu posted 24:36.7 for fourth just ahead of Ernest Ngeno. Ngeno was fourth in Embu.
JUNIOR WOMEN - Kibowen topples Cherotich in second giant killing act
World Cross Country Bydgoszcz silver winner and Punta Umbria seventh finisher, Purity Cherotich (20:48.4) saw her prized scalp claimed by newcomer Mercy Kibowen (20:36.3) who deployed the afterburners mid race to complete the most dominant triumph of the day.
The pupil (who was erroneously recorded as Chebwogen) completed a similar commanding victory at the series opener in Tala and thus edged her nose in front in the chase for the Sh400,000 (approx US$4000) Jackpot in her event.
Zipporah Wanjiku (20:49.3) re-enacted her placing in Tala as World Youth 3000m silver winner, Jackline Chepng’eno who was the bridesmaid to the Keringet Township Primary School winner at the same event, slipped to fourth.
Josephine Wanjiku (21:40.2) and Joyline Chemweno (21:45.7) shut the top six.
Mutwiri Mutuota (Capital FM) for IAAF
Junior women 6km
1. Mercy Kibowen 20:36.3
2. Purity Cherotich 20:48.4
3. Zipporah Wanjiru 20:49.3
4. Jackline Chepng’eno 20:51.2
5. Josephine Wanjiku 21:40.2
6. Joyline Chemweno (21:45.7)
7. Joyce Wanjogu (Nastor) 2209.1
8. Mary Wangechi (Elite) 2216.1
9. Regina Nyakolandu (22229
10. Virginia Nyambura 22:25.6
Junior men 8km
1. Justin Cheruiyot 24:05.5
2. Albert Rop 24:12.4
3. Johana Maina 24:31.7
4. Berbar Muia 24:36.7
5. Ernest Ngeni 24:00.4
6. Vincent Rono 24:04.7
7. Nelson Kogei 24:55.0
8. John KLariuki 25:09.9
9. Edwin Mokua 25:01.8
10. Silas Kingori 25:03.12
Senior women 8km
1. Margaret Wangari 27:42.9
2. Fridah Chelangat 28:03.1
3. Veronica Nyaruai 28:18.2
4. Monicah Wangari 28:28.8
5. Wanjiru Gatheru 28:34.2
6. Monicah Nderitu 28:39.5
7. Susan Letapanga 28:57.8
8. Pauline Wangui 29:01.8
9. Ester Macvharia 29:19.5
10. Perine Nenkampi 29:28.0
Senior men 12km
1. Paul Lonyangata 36:47.0
2. Linus Chumba 36:51.3
3. Caleb Mwangangi 37:10.0
4. Simon Gichuki 37:10.7
5. Mark Kiptoo 37:13.0
6. Reuben Limaa 37:20.5
7. Wilson Too 37:43.0
8. Ezekiel Cherop 37:45.7
9. Goeffrey Gikuni 37:50.1
10. Edwin Kibet 37:51.3