Unheralded Yihunilign Adane’s recorded a surprise last-gasp victory over world junior cross-country champion Hagos Gebrhiwet at the Ethiopian Clubs Cross Country Championships on Sunday (15).
On a day of surprises, Haftamnesh Tesfaye beat Ruti Aga and national 1500m champion Senbere Teferi in the junior women’s race, while Abera Chane and Meseret Toklaw took the men’s and women’s senior race titles.
Gebrhiwet shocked in the final sprint by Adane
Cloudy skies and uncharacteristically-cooler temperatures at the Jan Meda race course in Addis Ababa provided the backdrop to the second event in the domestic cross-country season in Ethiopia. The absence of top names in the senior races did not help lift the quiet mood at the venue, but a couple of exciting races in the junior events were the surprise highlights of the morning’s proceedings.
World junior cross-county champion and world 5000m silver medallist Hagos Gebrhiwet was the prohibitive pre-race favourite going into the men’s junior race and an air of inevitability swirled around the course when he moved ahead of a tightly-packed leading group at the bell.
Gebrhiwet continued to stay in the ascendency until making what looked like a race-clinching kick with 400m of the race left. He looked comfortable going into the last 200m until youngster Yihunilign Adane started to close the gap on the world junior 5000m record-holder.
Adane continued to chip away at the lead before overtaking Gebrhiwet at the finish line to stop the clock in 23:20. Gebrhiwet, given the same time, was a disappointed second ahead of Muhajir Hayredin (23:23).
“I didn't expect to win it, but also it wasn't the first time for me to win a race with this kind of manner,” said Adane, who finished 13th in the junior men’s race at this year’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships.
“I think it was a result of not giving up until the very last second. I was watching his move on the last bend and he wasn't changing his pace. I don't know why he acted like that. He might underestimate his challengers, but I kept on increasing my pace until I touched the finishing tape.”
Comfortable Chane overcomes personal matters to take senior title
There was no gun-to-tape finish in the other men’s race of the day as former national cross-country champion Abera Chane rolled back the years with victory over Gemechu Edao in the senior men’s 12km race.
Chane and runner-up Edao bode their time in a large leading group of runners including Abebe Sihine (younger brother of two-time Olympic and world 10,000m silver medallist Sileshi Sihine), Leykun Berhanu, and Berhanu Diro for the first half in a slow start to the race.
Edao led a breakaway group of four runners at the halfway point and kept exchanging leads with Chane at the head of pack until the bell with Berhanu, Diro, and Sisay Lemma close behind. But Chane used his experience at the bell by launching a sustained kick that kept on increasing his gap with the pack until he crossed the line in 36:27.
Edao overcame the battle of the chasing pack to finish second in 36:35 with Berhanu close behind in 36:37.
An emotional Chane struggled to hold back his tears in his post-race comment. “I came to this race without completing my last two training sessions because of some difficult personal situations,” he said. “My son is still feeling unwell due to an attack from somebody who wants to frustrate me. So thanks to God, I resisted all the unexpected difficult situations and was able to succeed.”
Tesfaye shocks Aga and Teferi
There was another major surprise on race day as the relatively experienced duo of world junior 5000m silver medallist Ruti Aga and world youth 1500m silver medallist Senbere Teferi were well beaten by Haftamnesh Tesfaye in a surprise victory.
Unlike the corresponding junior men’s race, this was no gun-to-tape race, but the battle truly began in the last kilometre when Aga, Teferi, and Tesfaye moved away from the early contenders to set up a three-horse race.
But Tesfaye, who had managed to avoid leading the race until then, looked the fresher of the three when she powered ahead of the duo in the last 500m to take victory in 20:16 ahead of Aga (20:19) and Teferi (20:23).
“It was a bit tough out there today, but I finally managed to deliver a good result,” said Tesfaye. “I am glad about the win. In the future, I want to specialise in the 5000m and 10,000m.”
In the day’s other race, Meseret Tolwak took victory in the women’s senior race in 27:26 ahead of Kidist Fisseha 27:38 and Asnakech Mengistu 27:49.
Elshadai Negash (with assistance from Bizuayehu Wagaw) for the IAAF
Senior men (12km)
1 Abera Chane 36:27
2 Gemechu Edao 36:35
3 Leykun Berhanu 36:37
4 Berhanu Diro 36:48
5 Sisay Lemma 36:57
Senior women (8km)
1 Meseret Tolwak 27:26
2 Kidst Fiseha 27:38
3 Asnakech Mengistu 27:49
4 Yenew Znashwork 27:50
5 Aberu Zewde 27:55
Junior men (8km)
1 Yihunilign Adane 23:20
2 Hagos Gebrehiwet 23:20
3 Muhajir Hayredin 23:23
4 Yohannes Bogale 23:24
5 Bekele Shiferaw 23:27
Junior women (6km)
1 Haftamnesh Tesfaye 20:16
2 Ruti Aga 20:19
3 Senbere Teferi 20:23
4 Alemitu Hawi 20:30
5 Shure Demsse 20:31