Two-time world cross-country medallist Teklemariam Medhin from Eritrea handed Uganda’s Timothy Toroitich a rare defeat this winter at the 60th edition of the Cross Internacional de San Sebastian at the Lasarte racecourse on Sunday (11).
In his last cross-country race six weeks ago in Soria, Medhin finished a close second to Toroitich, but the former turned the tables on his in-form rival, who has won four races on Spanish soil this winter.
In muddy underfoot conditions, the two protagonists pulled away from Kenya’s Elvis Cheboi and local hope Javier Guerra at the 7km mark. Based on recent results, it certainly seemed as though Toroitich was on course for his straight fifth cross country win.
But in a twist to the plot, Medhin, who has raced much more sparingly this winter, broke away from the Ugandan in the final kilometre and went on to take a noteworthy win.
He became the first runner to score three wins in San Sebastian since Ethiopia’s 1968 Olympic marathon champion Mamo Wolde won this long-running fixture three times between 1963 and 1966.
Medhin crossed the finish line in 30:45 to defeat Toroitich by a substantial 11 seconds while world junior 10,000m silver medallist Cheboi &ndash in his first race as a senior &ndash got the better of Guerra for the third podium spot.
Guerra, who is aiming for a sub-2:10 finishing time at the London Marathon on 26 April, was the first Spaniard home in fourth in 31:45 with early leader Ivan Fernandez fifth in 32:13.
Kenya’s Betsy Saina finished third at the Campaccio IAAF Cross Country Permit meeting in Italy on Tuesday but the 26-year-old, who set personal bests at all distances from 3000m up to the half marathon last year, will have enjoyed her Spanish outing more as she scored her first win of the season in the Basque city.
The former NCAA cross-country champion won the 6.5km race in 23:19 to defeat her compatriot Magdalene Masai, who won her third title in Amorebieta last weekend, by three seconds.
A largely domestic women's field couldn’t keep pace with the invited Kenyan runners on this occasion. Lidia Rodriguez was a distant third in 23:55 with European 3000m steeplechase bronze medallist Diana Martin fourth in 23:58.
Mangata and La Barbera prevail at Cross della Vallagarina
The Cross della Vallagarina in Italy hasn't been around as long as it's counterpart in San Sebastian but it still celebrated its 38th edition on Sunday.
Kenya and the home nation shared the spoils in the elite races staged on an undulating looped course in the valleys just outside the town of Rovereto.
In the men’s 8.8km race, Andrew Kwemoi Mangata from Kenya enjoyed a comfortable win over the little-known Ugandan teenager Robert Chemonges, who remains a junior until the 2017 season when the Ugandan capital Kampala hosts the IAAF World Cross Country Championships for the first time.
Mangata, 20, crossed the finish line in 27:07 for his first international race win on any surface, leaving Chemonges behind by 13 seconds with another Kenyan, Daniel Ngeno, third in 27:47.
In a largely domestic women’s 5.5km race, Silvia La Barbera regained the title she won for the first time two years ago in 22:48 ahead of Michela Zanatta and Giovanna Epis, who were second and third respectively in 22:57 and 23:03.
This race was first staged as a women’s-only race in 1978 to celebrate local runner Cristina Tomasini, who finished fifth at the 1977 IAAF World Cross Country Championships. Since then, household names of Italian running such as Agnese Possamai, Gabriela Dorio, Rosanna Munerotto, Roberta Brunet, Gelindo Bordin and Francesco Panetta have made the roll of honour in Roverto, along with world champions such as Wilson Boit Kipketer and Wilson Kiprop from Kenya, as well as Uganda’s Dorcus Inzikuru.
Cherotich surprises Jepkorir in Kapseret
On her comeback from maternity leave, Sammary Cherotich easily defeated 2008 Olympic 3000 steeplechase silver medallist Eunice Jepkorir at the Kapseret cross country championships on Saturday (10).
Cherotich, who won the 2007 world youth 1500m title at the age of 15, won the senior women’s 8km in 27:31 with Jepkorir, 32, a distant second in 28:15.
In the men’s senior 12km, 19-year-old Spencer Maiyo defeated Wilson Kiprotich by more than a minute.
Maiyo, who is still a junior, won in 34:36 to Kiprotich’s 35:38.
Meanwhile, Cosmas Birech and Winnie Jepkorir took the spoils at the Rift Valley prisons cross country championships in Ngeria on Saturday.
Birech, who has ambitions of making the Kenyan team for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, won the 12km senior race in 35:33 to defeat Michael Bett, who was second in 36:54.
"I am very hopeful considering my form at the moment but first I have to qualify for trials during our Prisons national Championships," Birech told local media.
In the women’s 8km, Jepkorir clocked 28:03 to defeat Violah Jepchumba by 26 seconds.
Steven Mills for the IAAF