Geoffrey Kipsang, the 2011 world junior cross-country champion, was the runaway winner from Geoffrey Mutai for the second year in succession over 12km at the Kenya Police Cross Country Championships, held at the Ngong Racecourse in Nairobi on Saturday (11).
The 21-year-old couldn't quite emulate last year's winning margin of 54 seconds but the renowned front-runner, who also took the plaudits over 10,000m this summer at the Kenya Police Championships on the track, still scored a comfortable defence of his title.
Kipsang stopped the clock at 36:46 with Mutai, who began to relinquish ground as soon as Kipsang forced the lead during the first 2km lap, a distant runner-up in 37:26.
World indoor silver medallist Augustine Choge finished third, and a further two seconds behind Mutai, to comprise a diverse podium.
Kipsang's credentials as a cross-country runner and on the track have been noted already, but the youngster is making his mark internationally over the marathon and this is the distance where his immediate goals lie.
“I’m preparing for the Tokyo Marathon (23 February) and maybe later in the year I will run in Chicago. My aim is to run under 2:06.
“I’m still new in the marathon and with experience, I could run under 2:04 in the future,” added Kipsang, who was no doubt inspired by finishing third behind Wilson Kipsang (no relation) in the Berlin Marathon last year when he lowered the world record to 2:03:23.
Mutai, a two-time winner of the New York Marathon, might extend his cross-country season until the African Cross-Country Championships in Kampala in March, where he'll hope to be in better form after a disrupted preparation.
“I’m still not in my competition weight since it took a while to recover from New York, and I recently had malaria. I was not expecting to perform the way I did here, but now I know what my mistakes were and will work on them.”
Record-chasing Kiplagat untouchable in women's race
Florence Kiplagat, a winner of this race in 2009, has been in outstanding form in recent months and her performance over 8km today bodes well for a possible tilt at the world half-marathon record this spring.
“For now, my aim is getting as close as possible to the world record in the half marathon when I compete at the Barcelona Half,” said Kiplagat, who also has an eye on the London Marathon on 13 April, after easily winning the 8km race in 27:44.
“It has not been confirmed whether I will go there but I’m ready to try to get near Mary Keitany’s record (1:05:50).”
Former world junior and African 1500m champion Irene Jelagat has been largely absent from the international scene over the past two years but the 4:02.59 1500m runner made a good return, finishing second in 28:29 with Edith Chelimo another four seconds back in third.
Isabella Ochichi, the 2004 Olympic 5000m silver medallist, was fifth in 28:57.
Steven Mills for the IAAF
1 Geoffrey Kipsang 36:46
2 Geoffrey Mutai 37:26
3 Augustine Choge 37:28
4 Josephat Bett 38:03
5 Joseph Kitur 38:09
6 Philemon Rono 38:12
7 Bernard Kipkemoi 38:17
8 Nicholas Togom 38:19
9 Isaiah Kiplangat 38:31
10 Joseph Kiptum 38:35
1 Florence Kiplagat 27:44
2 Irene Jelagat 28:29
3 Edith Chelimo 28:33
4 Janet Kisa 28:55
5 Isabella Ochichi 28:57
6 Ann Cheptanui 29:38
7 Beatrice Chepchumba 29:40
8 Esther Chemutai 29:48
9 Hellen Nzembi 29:58
10 Monica Wangare 30:11