Reigning women’s World Junior Cross Country champion Meselech Melkamu produced an outstanding sprint finish to win the senior women's 4km race on the second and final day of the 22nd Jan Meda International Cross Country (Sun 27).
This was Ethiopia's final qualifying opportunity for next month’s 33rd IAAF World Cross Country Championships in St- Etienne/ St-Galmier, France.
In the men’s short race, Dejene Berhanu's defended his 4km senior title with ease from Gebregziabher Gebremariam and Mohammed Awol in second and third respectively to replicate last year's top three finish. But the biggest surprise of the day came in the junior 6km race where Solomon Molla produced an upset win over World Junior 5000m bronze medalist Tariku Bekele, who could only manage sixth.
Women’s 4km - Melkamu imperious against strong opposition
The star athlete of this weekend's trials was Meselech Melkamu who recovered from finishing second in the 8km race yesterday to beat a very strong field in the 4km short course triumphing over a strong field that included reigning World 10,000m silver medallist Werknesh Kidane, Olympic 10,000m silver medallist Ejegayehou Dibaba, and Merima Denboba.
There was nothing to separate a leading pack of four runners by the half way mark in the 4km race today with Ejegayehou Dibaba choosing to lead from the front with Kidane, Melkamu, Bizunesh Bekele, and Sentayehu Ejigu in close attendance.
With one kilometre left in the race, Kidane surged forward in an attempt to avoid a sprint finish. But she could not shake off Melkamu, Dibaba, and Bekele who stuck behind her like glue.
But the day belonged to Melkamu, who sped forward with 200m left in the race leaving the others lagging behind and crossing the line in 13:12 with Bekele and Dibaba coming second and third. Kidane and Deribie held on to automatically qualify for St-Etienne/St-Galmier.
A delighted Melkamu said she might consider running both races in France. “It is quite possible,” she said. “But I will see after training and will talk to my coaches about it.”
Last year's long course silver medallist Ejegayehou Dibaba said that she was already looking forward to the 8km senior, which she says is her preferred distance. "I want to run the 8km in France, but we shall see," she said. "If I do run the distance, my main aim would be getting winning gold this time around to improve on last year's performance."
Men’s 4km - Easy for Berhanu
In the corresponding men's race, it was Dejene Berhanu, fifth at the Olympic 5000m in Athens last year and the winner of the Great North Run, who bided his time and made a calculated move with 300m to go to defend his title here in Addis Ababa.
Mohammed Awol took a leading pack of five through the first lap (2km) and had surged forward after a kilometre only to be closed down by Berhanu, Gebremariam, World Cross short race bronze medalist Maeregu Zewde, Tessema Abshiro, and Tewodros Shiferaw.
But when Berhanu made his own decisive move with 300m left in the race, there was no one in the field who had an answer. The gap between him and Gebremariam was initially 3m, but by the time that Berhanu stopped the clock 11.25, the difference was well over 30m. Awol fought off Abera Chane to take third spot with Zewde coming in fifth to take the last automatic spot for the World Cross.
Junior Men - Molla shocks Tariku Bekele
The performance and even perhaps the shock of the championships came in the junior men's 8km race when little-known Solomon Molla led from start to finish beating Tariku Bekele, the World Junior 5000m bronze medallist.
Tariku, who is the younger brother of World and Olympic 10,000m champion Kenenisa Bekele, clearly looked nothing close to the sort of form that saw him win cross country races in Llodio and Elgoibar this season. He finished way back in sixth place and must now wait to see if he is selected in Ethiopia's provisional team to be announced this week.
Elshadai Negash for the IAAF
22nd Jan Meda Cross Country International Official Results
Men's junior 8km
1. Solomon Molla (Prisons) 23.24
2. Kabtamu Reta (St. George) 23.27
3. Mekuriya Tadesse (Yenegew Tesfa) 23.30
4. Abdissa Tesisa (Muger) 23.31 (23.30.55)
5. Chala Leme (Ethiopian Banks) 23.31 (23.31.08)
6. Tariku Bekele (Muger) 23.32
Women's senior 4km
1. Meselech Melkamu (EEPCO) 13:12
2. Bizunesh Bekele (Ethiopian Banks) 13:13
3. Ejegayehou Dibaba (Oromia Police) 13.14 (13.13.98)
4. Werkinesh Kidane (Ethiopian Banks) 13.14 (13.14.32)
5. Derebe Alemu (Prisons) 13.19
6. Sentayehu Ejigu (Ethiopian Banks) 13.26
Men's senior 4km
1. Dejene Berhanu (Prisons) 11.25
2. Gebregziabher Gebremariam (Ethiopian Banks) 11.28
3. Mohammed Awol (Prisons) 11.32
4. Abera Chane (St. George) 11.36
5. Maeregu Zewde (Prisons) 11.39
6. Tewodros Shiferaw (Omedla) 11.42