Soria, SpainKenyans Boniface Songok and Rose Chepchumba were the convincing victors in the 12th Campo a Través Internacional de Soria’ – EAA permit - Cross Country race held today (20).
Hassan a late hour withdrawal
The first big news of the race actually came on the eve of the competition when it was announced that pre-race favourite Abdullah Ahmad Hassan of Qatar was a late withdrawal from the field. The World Cross Country bronze medallist, it was said, was not fully recovered from a tendon injury he sustained last spring which finally prevented him from contesting the 2005 outdoor campaign.
Despite his absence, the powerful African contingent ruled the race from the start. It was Ethiopia’s Eshetu Gezhagne who made most of the early pace with Kenya’s Boniface Songok (not to confused with World Cross Country short race bronze medallist Isaac Songok) on his shoulder. By the third kilometre the lead group was only comprised of five athletes: Gezhagne, Songok, the Eritrean pair of Tesfayohannes Mesfen ann Kidane Tadesse plus Spain’s Alberto García.
Crucial surge in the last 1000m
With 12:30 on the clock (fourth kilometre), Gezhagne produced a devastating kick, but not strong enough to leave his pursuers adrift. When the leading pack went through the sixth kilometre, Mesfen stepped up the pace dramatically and his front running tactics had its first consequence when the main group was whittled down to three as the pace was too much for Tadesse, Zersenay Tadesse’s younger brother, and García, the reigning European 5000m champion.
The crucial moment came in the last 1000 metres. As Songok’s pace just became more brisk, he managed to break away and there was no catching the 24-year-old. He crossed the line five seconds ahead of Mesfen, who dropped Gezhagne - 13th at the World Cross last March - in the final 500 metres to claim the runner-up position by three seconds. Tadesse, who is still eligible to compete as a junior in the upcoming World Cross Country Championships in Fukuoka, finished a notable fourth, ten seconds clear of García.
Women's Race - Jepchumba unchallenged
From the very early stages with barely 1:30 on the clock, five athletes - Kenyans Rose Jepchumba and Sally Barsosio, Eritrean Simret Sultan, Britain’s Liz Yelling and Portugal’s Fernanda Ribeiro - opened a handsome margin over the rest of the field. The frantic pace set by Jepchumba soon paid off and before the second kilometre the European pair – first Ribeiro and shortly afterwards Yelling - lost ground while the African trio went on with Jepchumba leading.
The key moment came with precisely 1200 metres to go. It was then that the 26-year-old Jepchumba, ninth at the last World Cross, injected a letal change of pace, one which left Sultan and Barsosio well behind with the former easily prevailing over Barsosio in the final stages to take second. Today’s winner Jepchuma has improved her 10,000m and Half Marathon PBs to 31:29.81 and 1:10:15 respectively this season.
In the fight to be first European home, the experienced and former Olympic 10,000m champion Ribeiro overtook Yelling at the halfway point, and from then on widened her advantage over the Briton en route to a huge 24 second margin at the finish line, with Ireland’s Maria McCambridge another 11 seconds behind Yelling to finish sixth.
1. Boniface Songok (Ken) 26:23
2. Tesfayohannes Mesfen (Eri) 26:28
3. Eshetu Gezhagne (Eth) 26:31
4. Kidane Tadesse (Eri) 26:42
5. Alberto García (Esp) 26:52
6. José Ríos (Esp) 27:14
7. Iván Galán (Esp) 27:22
8. Jesús España (Esp) 27:26
1. Rose Jepchumba (Ken) 19:47
2. Simret Sultan (Eri) 19:55
3. Sally Barsosio (Ken) 20:01
4. Fernanda Ribeiro (Por) 20:08
5. Liz Yelling (Gbr) 20:32
6. Maria Mc Cambridge (Irl) 20:43
7. Rosa Morató (Esp) 20:44
8. Sonia Bejarano (Esp) 20:50
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF