Kenyans Edwin Soi and Mercy Cherono topped the bill at the 55th Campaccio International Cross Country on Friday (6), the fourth leg of the 2011/2012 IAAF Cross Country Permit circuit. The Campaccio was held on a sunny day blown by a chilly wind.
Soi clinched his second win in San Giorgio su Legnano four years after taking the honours in 2008 in the same year he went on to finish third at the Beijing Olympic Games in the 5000m. It was a narrow and thrilling win for Soi over his compatriot Vincent Chepkok after a dramating final sprint. Both Soi and Chepkok were credited with the same time of 29:13, while Ethiopian Kinde Atanau finished third one second behind in 29:14 beating IAAF World Cross Country champion Imane Mega by four seconds.
Cherono, the reigning IAAF 3000m World junior champion and 2010 World Junior Cross Country champion, produced an outstanding performance by destroying the rest of the field with a devastating surge at four kilometres when she broke away opening up a huge gap to romped home in 19:26 with a margin of 21 seconds over double 5000m World championships silver medallist Sylvia Kibet (19:47) who held off Afera Godfay from Ethiopia, who confirmed her good shape six days after her second place in the Bolzano Boclassic road race.
Men’s race -
The men’s race was run at a slow and conservative pace in the early stages. Italian Cross Country specialist Gabriele De Nard took charge in the first two kilometres to lead ahead of Moroccan-born Marouan Razine from Italy, 5000m national champion Stefano La Rosa and the group of African favourites with Soi, Chepkok, Ethiopians Merga, Kinde Atanaw and Mokashaw Kassa and Eritrean Abrar Osman, the 2010 3000m Youth Olympic champion. The race was tactical and the Italian runners took advantage of the slow pace to take the initiative in the first four kilometres.
The pace hotted up at six kilometres when Soi, Chepkok, Atanaw, Kassa and Osman broke away from the rest of the field with 18:04 on the clock. After the bell Chepkok tried to pull away but Soi responded to his attack closing the gap on his compatriot.
Before the entrance in the Angelo Alberti local athletics track Chepkok, Soi and Atanaw dropped Merga who is carrying a foot injury, and who could not respond to their decisive change of gear.
The race came down to the wire in a hard-fought final sprint when Soi launched his breathtaking kick to take his second Campaccio win which followed his recent fourth Boclassic victory in Bolzano.
“I feel in very good shape and I showed my form today,” Soi said. “The race was tactical at the beginning but I felt very confident because the pace suited my plan. This was my last Cross Country race as I am planning the Indoor season with a couple of meetings in February. I won here in 2008 and then I took the Olympic bronze medal in Beijing. I hope to repeat this feat in London.”
Women’s race -
The women’s race was a one-woman show offered by an outstanding Cherono who romped home in 19:26 smashing the course record held by Hungarian Aniko Kalovics who clocked 20:04 in 2010.
Italians Silvia Weissteiner and Valentina Costanza took the early initiative and led until the second lap when Cherono broke away with 10 minutes on the clock at three kilometres.
During the third and final lap the Daegu 5000m World Championships fifth placer Cherono produced a decisive surge and increased her lead to about 20 seconds over the chase group formed by Ethiopians Afera Godfay and Birtukan Adamu, the 3000m Steeplechase World junior record holder, and Sylvia Kibet.
Behind Cherono, who continued her unchallenged race in the final lap, Kibet and Godfay fought it out for second which went to the Kenyan by two seconds.
“The conditions were perfect,” Cherono said. “There were no rain and mud. I prepared well for this race. With no World Championships this year, my next race is Seville on 15th January. the major goal for the cross country season is the African Cross Country Championships.”
Turkey’s Binnaz Uslu, the 5000m and 3000m Steeplechase World University champion, finished fourth and was the first European ahead of Birtukan Adamu. Silvia Weissteiner, seventh at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin in the 5000m, showed again that she is returning to her best form after two difficult seasons.
A record 1300 runners took part in all competitions which made up the programme of the Campaccio in an enjoyable atmosphere. Italian Athletics Federation President Franco Arese, who ran this race when he was an international middle distance runner in the 1970s, attended the Campaccio race which traditionally opens the Italian athletics season.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
Leading Results from the 55th Campaccio:
1. Edwin Soi (Kenya) 29:13
2. Vincent Chepkok (Kenya) 29:13
3. Kinde Atanau (Ethiopia) 29:14
4. Imane Merga (Ethiopia) 29:18
5. Mokashaw Kassa (Ethiopia) 29:36
6. Abrar Osman (Eritrea) 29:57
7. Stefano La Rosa (Italy) 30:08
8. Marouan Razine (Italy) 30:09
9. Lukas Parszczynski (Poland) 30:12
10. Gabriele De Nard (Italy) 30:16
1. Mercy Cherono (Kenya) 19:26
2. Sylvia Kibet (Kenya) 19:47
3. Afera Godfay (Ethiopia) 19:49
4. Binnaz Uslu (Turkey) 20:09
5. Birtukan Adamu (Ethiopia) 20:13
6. Silvia Weissteiner (Italy) 20:18
7. Fatna Maraoui (Italy) 20:42
8. Agnes Tschurtschenthaler (Italy) 20:57
9. Valentina Belotti (Italy) 21:07
10. Irene Antola (Italy) 21:16