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Kisii, KenyaIn one of the most dramatic finishes to a race, home girl and Commonwealth Games 10,000m champion, Grace Momanyi lost the 8km senior women race at the tape as Kisii staged the fifth Kenya Commercial Bank/AK National Cross Country series meet on Saturday (4).
Military officer Vincent Chepkok, who took junior silver at the Mombasa World Cross Country Championships, frog marched series jackpot leaders Charles Kibet and John Chepkwony in the men’s long race as Philemon Rono and Sheila Chemuet took the men’s junior 8km and women’s 6km junior contests.
Men’s 12km race
The men’s long race was headlined by a rematch between Moncton World juniors 5000m silver winner John Chepkwony and the man he led to the altar at the second series meet in Kipkelion (13 November), Charles Kibet who was 11th (junior) at the Bydgoszcz World Cross.
John Mwangangi, who was runner-up at the opening meet in Tala, Kangundo (6 November) was also in the frame for victory as 45 runners lined-up for competition at the most charming of courses at Kisii Golf Club.
Illuminated by a bright sun with gentle breeze, six 2km loops of alternating steep inclines and downhill that weaved through the nine-hole golf ground resplendent with well manicured trees and banana plantations, lay ahead of them.
At the gun, the runners took off with zeal and after the first circuit, the front runners had formed into a group of eight. The three bets for victory were in it as well as Mombasa 2007 junior bronze winner, Vincent Chepkok, who has fallen to some lean times since his ninth place finish in the 5000m) at World Championships in Berlin.
Mwangangi ran out of gas just past the 5km mark where at this point, Chepkok, Chepkwony and Kibet were joined by Philip Langat and Bernard Rotich in pushing the pace upfront.
First Kibet, then Chepkwony, then Kibet again, surged to the lead as they came for the last loop with Chepkok bidding his time in third. He pulled alongside the leader just after the bell tolled to signal the final lap and with 1000m left, decided to own the race in an explosion of pace that left Chepkwony no chance.
With the crowd gathering at the finish area, Chepkok completed his solo charge to the tape (organisers did not bother to put up one anyway) in 37:57.8. In his slipstream, Kibet (39:42.2) held on for runner-up to edge his tussle against Chepkwony (39:54.0) who checked in for third.
“This year, others have come and taken my place in the national team. I want that back,” the Armed Forces officer charged. “Today, I felt my body respond well and although the course was very difficulty with the hills, I felt strong. I did not mind running against the top two in the jackpot race, they gave me good challenge.”
“No one could live with him today. He was so strong but I’m happy to maintain my jackpot challenge and momentum ahead of the nationals. It’s getting tougher now,” Kibet who won the third meet in Kapsokwony, Mt Elgon (20 November) expressed. Langat (39:55.7) got the better of Kenya Prisons runner Rotich (40:07.7) in the race for fourth and fifth effectively swapping their finishing order from Kipkelion where the latter (sixth) edged the former (seventh). Mwangangi (40:32.4) paled to eighth.
Women’s 8km -
Commonwealth Games titleholder Grace Momanyi is an unrivalled attraction in this region and just a month ago Kisii residents turned out in their droves to accord her a roaring welcome after her Delhi exploits.
When word went round she would start, a beeline for Kisii Golf Course was witnessed and as the race unfolded, it became apparent their beloved would not have a clear run for victory.
Barely had the first circuit been completed when the field that had 30 starters disintegrated to leave Momanyi, Caroline Kilel Chepkwony, Pamela Lisoreng who was eight at 2006 Fukuoka World Cross (junior) and Leonidah Mosop purposely hitting the front.
The quartet exchanged leads in the subsequent kilometres before Mosop became the first to be dropped at the 5.5km mark. Lisoreng hung on past the bell before she also conceded to the frenetic pace set by Momanyi and Chepkwony, who ran to the 2:23:25 course record at the Frankfurt Marathon in October.
Momanyi, who won the Kenyan Trials for the Edinburgh World Cross released a turn of speed with 800m to go that she hoped would finish Chepkwony but the fourth finisher from last year’s World Half Marathon Championships refused to crack.
With the finish in sight barely 150m to go, the two gave the crowd a finish to savour that sadly for most gathered, ended in favour of Chepkwony. Both runners, now arm-to-arm, stride for stride, appeared to be in for a dead heat finish but with the line just a pace away, Momanyi tripped on a sunken hole to cede victory to her rival. The clocks returned 29:59.5 against 30:00.0 as the margin between victory and runner-up.
“I did not expect to come here and pull this off. It was so tough, very close. I came here to test my legs and see how my body would respond to the training and I’m so happy. It was a tough course and a good race,” Chepkwony, a veteran of the 2003 World Cross where she took eighth in the women’s long race said. In addition to Frankfurt, she also finished third (2:26:58) after taking the Ljubljana Marathon (2:25:24) a few weeks after she ran in Birmingham.
“I’m training for the Boston Marathon,” she disclosed.
“I came here without much training and now I know what I need to do to realise my dream of returning to the World Cross next year beginning with some speed. Congratulations to her (Chepkwony), she ran a good race and that is the kind of competition one needs to properly gauge their strength,” Momanyi, who was tenth in Edinburgh, magnanimously offered. Lisoreng (30:15.0) locked out third with Mosop (30:38.5) fourth.
Men’s 8km junior race
This proved to be the main attractions for entry with 120 starters. Philemon Rono, who came to the radar after winning the 10,000m race at last year’s North Rift Secondary School championships took top honours in 25:28.6 after a tactical run that saw him sit behind the frontrunners before zooming away to victory.
“After finishing runner-up at the Tuskys Wareng Cross Country (20 November), I felt motivated to try the AK series and from what I have seen today, I can think of making the national team if I maintain this form,” Rono who was beaten by Japheth Korir, the World Cross bronze holder at the Wareng event said.
After finishing third in Kipkelion, favoured Korir once again returned the same position on his return to the AK circuit with 25:44.6 after Ernest Ngeno (25:43.8), fourth at the second meet, followed the victor home. David Bett, who won the preceding round in Embu (November 27) took fourth (25:50.0) leaving the junior men 8km with no repeat winner since the series kicked-off at Tala, Kangundo.
Junior women’s 6km
Sigowet runner Sheila Chemuet (22:32), who took second in Kipkelion, accelerated from the field midway into the junior women 6km run to complete a crushing victory over 53 starters.
“I can’t say how much this means to me. To win my first race of the season is great,” the 17-year-old Kiptere Primary School pupil said. Vivian Kiplimo (22:39) and home runner, Rose Maranga (22:47) sealed the podium.
The series where winners in the four categories will share a KSh1m ($25,000) jackpot moves to Nyahururu on 18 December.
Big shots turn-up
Once a hot bed of Kenyan running, Kisii running greats among them Charles Asati (1972 Munich Olympics 4X400m relay gold), Yobes Ondieki (first man to break the 27:00 barrier in 10,000m and 1991 5000m World champion) and Japan-based Stephen Mayaka were there to witness the showdown.
“In the past, we were second to Kalenjin (Rift Valley) runners in terms of producing talent. Nowadays, Kikuyu (Central) and Kamba (Eastern) are doing much better and I don’t know what is the problem here is.
“Our schools where most of us were discovered have stopped taking sports seriously and this has led to the lack of commitment and discipline,” Ondieki decried.
During the report for the second meeting in Kipkelion, it was inadvertedly stated that Volker Wagner was the new manager for Charles Kibet. We have since established that Dutch national, Frans Denissen, is indeed the Athletes’ Representative who recruited Kibet and any embarrassment this might have caused is regretted.
Mutwiri Mutuota (The Standard) for IAAF
5TH KCB/AK NATIONAL CROSS COUNTRY SERIES RESULTS
Leading Results - 12km senior men 1. Vincent Kiprop 37:57.8 2. Charles Kibet 39:42.2 3. John Chepkwony 39:54.0 4. Philip Langat 39:55.7 5. Bernard Rotich 40:07.7 6. Kipkoech Cherono 40:12.4 7. David Langat 40:27.5 8. John Mwangangi 40:32.4 9. Richard Sigei 40:39.4 10. Bernard Kitur 40:53.0