Joseph Ebuya has drifted towards the periphery of the Kenyan distance-running team in recent years but the 2010 world cross-country champion appeared to be close to his best form as he decimated a field including reigning world cross-country champion Japheth Korir, at the 59th edition of the 'Cross Internacional de San Sebastian' on Sunday (26).
Ebuya, who has only managed fairly modest track times of 7:38.34 for 3000m and 13:11.09 for 5000m since winning the world cross-country title, ran boldly from the outset of the 10km race and took what turned out to be a wholly unopposed victory.
The 26-year-old crossed the line in 32:00 and amassed a winning margin of exactly one minute over Samuel Tsegay from Eritrea, who by no means lacks cross-country pedigree having won a high-profile race in Burgos just before Christmas.
Korir, the surprise winner of the world title in Bydgoszcz last March, was never in contention as he finished even further back in third in 33:22 and only six seconds ahead of the first Spanish finisher Javier Garcia.
Ebuya joins some revered company as the San Sebastian roll-of-honour includes Emil Zatopek (1958), Mamo Wolde (1963-64, 1967), Mohamed Gammoudi (1965), Dave Bedford (1973), Carlos Lopes (1976), John Ngugi (1988) and Haile Gebrselassie (1994).
Persistence paid off for twice runner-up Milcah Chemos, who triumphed in her fourth successive appearance in the race held in the northern Spanish city, situated about 20km west of the French border.
The world steeplechase champion pulled away from Ethiopia's Marta Tigabea, a winner in Soria at the start of the cross-country season, in the closing stages of the 6km race to win in 24:21 by five seconds.
Chemos surprisingly became just the second Kenyan winner of this race over the past decade after Eunice Jepkorir, another steeplechase specialist, won in 2008. Diana Martin was third for the second year in succession in 24:33.
Jeptoo trumps accomplished field in Eldoret
Priscah Jeptoo put down an eye-catching season opener, while 2010 world half-marathon champion Wilson Kiprop won by a narrow margin at the 23rd edition of the Discovery Kenya Cross-Country Championships in Eldoret on Sunday (26).
Competing for just the second time since her come-from-behind victory at the New York Marathon, Jeptoo proved just as adept over the much shorter distance of 6km as she crossed the line in 19:59, comfortably ahead of Jemima Jelagat, also the runner-up at the Kenya Defence Forces Championships over 8km last week.
Jelagat clocked 20:10, while Chicago Marathon winner Rita Jeptoo finished third in 20:19.
The foremost priority for the top three finishers will be the roads this spring, as the winner is lining up to defend her London Marathon title on 13 April while Jelagat and Jeptoo will be among the favourites in the Boston Marathon on 21 April.
Kiprop, the 2010 African 10,000m champion, won the men's 10km race ahead of Olympic 10,000m fifth-place finisher Bedan Karoki, 28:59 to 29:00.
Stanley Biwott, who is also in training for the London Marathon in April, finished a distant third in 29:32.
Ndunge finally triumphs as favourites falter at Kenya Prisons
Twice runner-up Fredrick Musyoki Ndunge topped the podium at this year's Kenya Prisons Cross-Country Championships, held at the Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi on Saturday (25).
Ndunge, who was also third in 2010 and 2011 and fourth in 2009, hasn't quite made the grade internationally after an illustrious career as a teenager which included a world youth title over 1500m aged 16. But the 23-year-old looks set for a good year based on his performance against a solid field over 12km.
Ndunge crossed the line in 35:56 and took some noteworthy scalps, including 2011 African cross-country champion John Mwangangi, a distant second in 36:09.
Franklin Ngelel comprised the podium in third in 36:17.
Noteworthy drop-outs included defending champion Timothy Kiptoo, who was suffering from a dental problem, while Olympic 5000m bronze medallist Thomas Longosiwa dropped out at 4km due to a torn shoe.
Cynthia Cherotich won the women's 8km race in 27:12 ahead of Nancy Nzisa (27:27) and Grace Kimani (27:44). Defending champion Eunice Kioko didn't figure this time, finishing a long way back in 13th.
Mbishei repeats in Belgium
Fresh from a victory in Kerkrade a week ago, in-form Titus Mbishei from Kenya took top honours again over 9km at the 'Lotto CrossCup' race in Hannut on Sunday (26).
The sub-27-minute 10,000m runner wasn't particularly challenged as he crossed the tape in 26:43, some 12 seconds ahead of Tasama Dame from Ethiopia.
Bashir Abdi was the first domestic finisher in fifth in 27:13, one second ahead of 1500m specialist Jeroen D'Hoedt.
The women's race was a much more competitive spectacle with world junior 3000m steeplechase record-holder Birtukan Adamu outsprinting Kenya's Linah Cheruto for the victory over 6km in 20:16 by one second.
Almensh Belete had a good run on home-soil by comprising the podium in third in 20:22. Virginia Nyambura, the winner in Kerkrade last week, was fifth in 20:33.
Elsewhere, at the 37th edition of the 'Memorial Jesus Luis Alos' in Huesca on Sunday (26), African junior 10,000m champion Moses Kurong from Uganda was a runaway winner from Kenya’s Elijah Chelimo, 31:13 to 31:38 over 10.6km, while Paula Gonzalez from Spain won the women's 5.1km race in 17:22.
Cornelius Kangogo defeated Peter Emase and Clement Kemboi in the 12km race at the Elgeyo-Marakwet County Championships in Iten on Saturday (25).
Former world junior cross-country silver medallist Irene Cheptai won the women's 8km race.
Steeplechasers fared well in the junior category as world junior champion Daisy Jepkemei who, at 17, is still eligible to defend her title in Eugene this summer, won the junior race with African junior champion Festus Kiprono taking the plaudits in the men's equivalent.
Steven Mills (with assistance from Kip Evans) for the IAAF
LEADING RESULTS FROM ELDORET
1 Wilson Kiprop 28:59
2 Bedan Karoki 29:00
3 Stanley Biwott 29:32
4 Joseph Kiplimo 29:39
5 Isaac Korir 29:44
6 Paul Lonyangata 29:47
7 Daniel Kiptoo 29:50
8 Cyprian Kotut 29:53
9 Julius Kogo 29:55
10 Philemon Rono 29:55
11 Haron Lagat 29:57
12 Joseph Kiptum 29:57
1 Priscah Jeptoo 19:59
2 Jemima Jelagat 20:10
3 Rita Jeptoo 20:19
4 Margaret Chelimo 20:20
5 Gladys Yator 20:29
6 Georgina Rono 20:32
7 Edith Chelimo 20:33
8 Helah Kiprop 20:42
9 Rachel Kosgei 20:45
10 Emmy Chepkirui 20:51
11 Gorreti Tanui 20:52
12 Susan Tanui 20:57