- Young hopefuls Feyse Tadesse and Belete Assefa were the winners of the women’s and men’s titles at the 2nd Ethiopian Clubs Cross Country Championships at the Jan Meda racecourse on Sunday (11).
Little-known Assefa shocks Bekele and Regassa
With marathoners Chala Dechasa, Azmeraw Bekele, and Tilahun Regassa and track runners Abera Kuma and Yetwale Kinde heading up the startlist, the senior men’s 12km was the main attraction of the day’s programme.
But none of the pre-race favourites were able to withstand 20-year old Belete Assefa, who despite his relatively-little international experience, struck victory against a top class field. Needless to say, though, his rivals did not make it easy for him.
A frantic start and a mad jostling for positions in the early parts of the race did not make the early parts of the race a pleasant watching experience, but it soon became clear who had the biggest intention of crossing the finish line ahead when the field was wilted down to 17 runners by the first kilometre with all the major pretenders including Bekele, Dechasa, Regassa, Kinde, and Kuma all in the mix.
Bekele and Kinde made the first attempts to launch a kick, but their moves were kept in check by the chasing pack. After 5km, a more sustained launch by Regassa further spread the field and saw only six athletes following the 2010 Abu Dhabi Half Marathon winner.
The leading group of six continued to exchange leads with Regassa doing the front running until the 9km when Assefa and Mekashaw Eshete moved ahead and opened up a 50m lead with Regassa and Bekele following closely behind.
A kilometre later, Bekele dropped out of the race leaving Regassa alone in the chase for third place. Eshete edged Assefa slightly as the duo came up to the bell indicating the last lap (2km). At the half way point, however, Assefa overtook his fellow youngster and sprinted away for victory in 35:11.89.
Eshete finished second with 35:19.64, while Regassa held on in the battle for third to beat Kinde in 35:25.41.
"This is my fifth year since I begun athletics and I am happy with my gradual improvement,” said Assefa, whose best international result was a 5th place finish over 5000m at the 13th IAAF World Junior Championships in Moncton, Canada. “I have a big ambition to do this on the international level."
Tadesse over Jelila in the women’s race
There was a similar story in the women’s 8km where Feyse Tadesse beat two-time Addis Ababa clubs cross country champion and 2011 Toronto Marathon winner Koreni Jelila, Great Ethiopian Run 10km winner Abebech Afework, and fellow marathon runner Aberu Kebede to take a deserved victory.
Unlike Assefa, Tadesse had solid credentials as a road runner with personal bests of 1:08.44 (half marathon) and 2:25.20 (full marathon) and a fourth place finish at the 2010 World Half Marathon Championships in Nanning, China. But her victory over experienced campaigners is a jolt in her confidence in preparation for the winter/spring marathon season.
Fifteen athletes including the pre-race favourites formed the leading pack going into this race at the 2km point in this race. At this point, Tiki Gelana, runner-up in the Great Ethiopian Run behind Afework two weeks ago, made the first ambitious move that saw nine runners drop back and only five- Jelila, Tadesse Afework, Kebede, and youngster Almaz Alemu- remaining in the battle for top honours.
The decisive break came halfway into the final lap when Tadesse kicked after taking the lead. She continued increasing her lead and kept up the pace until crossing the line in 26:52.43. Defending champion Jelila (26:56.42) took second, while Gelana (27:03.10) came a distant third.
"I was not much prepared for this race,” commented a shy Tadesse after her victory. “But I was asked to represent my club and I am glad to do it and win the race."
Gebrehiwot and Melese take junior titles
In the junior men’s 8km junior race, Hagos Gebrehiwot, who finished seventh over the 3000m at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Lille, France, delivered the pre-race expectations by taking victory in style. The 17-year old sat comfortably in the middle of a large leading pack for much of the race before launching his kick at 70m for victory in 23:23.69 with Ytayal Atnafu and Fikadu Haftu coming home in second and third clocking 23:26.56 and 23:28.40 respectively.
"In previous cross country races, I had little experience and poor results,” said the race winner. “But this year, I trained well and did well to win it. The experience I got from being in the national team was very useful for my improvement."
The junior women’s 6km was won by Yebrgual Melese, who took a comfortable 10-second victory over Bizu Deriba and Goytatom Gebrselassie.
Elshadai Negash for the IAAF
with the assistance of Bizuayehu Wagaw
Junior Women 6km
1. Yebrgual Melese (Defence) 20:08.72
2. Bizu Driba (Privet) 20:19.50
3. Goytatom Gebreselassie (Mesfin Engineering) 20:21.81
4. Alemitu Haroye (CBE) 20:25.15
5. Shito Wedesa (Defence) 20:27.55
6. Alem Semungus (Mesfin Engineering) 20:30.54
Junior Men 8km
1. Hagos Gebrehiwot (Mesfin Engineering) 23:23.69
2. Yetayal Atnafu (EEPCO) 23:26.56
3. Fikadu Haftu (Defence) 23:28.40
4. Ykeber Bayabl (Amhara Police) 23:31.65
5. Enyew Mekonnen (Defence) 23:35.24
6. Tigabu Gebrenaryam (Mesbo Cement) 23:39.70
Elite Women 8km
1. Feyse Tadesse (Federal Police) 26:52.43
2. Koreni Jelila (Defence) 26:56.42
3. Tiki Gelana (Defence) 27:03.10
4. Abebech Afework (Defence) 27:07.58
5. Almaz Alemu (Defence) 27:11.46
6. Aberu Kebede (Federal Prisons) 27:22.18
Elite Men 12km
1. Belete Assefa (Federal Prisons) 35:11.89
2. Mekashaw Eshete (Lucy Athletics) 35:19.64
3. Tilahun Regasa (Federal Prisons) 35:25.41
4. Yetwale Kinde (Defence) 35:32.83
5. Melese Debebe (Oromiya Prisons) 35:36.91
6. Abera Chane (Geta Zeru) 35:40.37