Addis Ababa, EthiopiaDefence club runners Koreni Jelila and Dereje Debele were the winners of the senior races at the 26th MOHA Addis Ababa International Cross Country at the Jan Meda race in Addis Ababa on Sunday (30).
African junior 3000m silver medallist Bezunesh Urgessa was an impressive winner of the women’s junior race, while Dejen Gebremeskel took the junior men’s title.
Debele beats experienced Yegezu
The most exciting race of the day was the senior men’s 12km. And with many of Ethiopia’s more established runners skipping the meet, it provided the perfect opportunity for young and upcoming runners to showcase their talent in one of two cross country races held in Ethiopia annually.
The race remained tightly bunched for the first 3km as none of the top contenders took the initiative to move to the front of the leading pack in the early stages of the race.
But after the halfway point, St. George runner Zenbaba Yegezu seized the initiative at the head of the pack. His blistering pace tore apart the bunch with only Dejene Debele and Tesfaye Tadesse able to live with his initiative.
A lap (2km) later, the front duo dropped Tadesse to set up a two-horse race. At the bell, Zegezu took up the lead and looked to have stroked clear of his lesser-known compatriot when he opened up a gap of 20m.
But Debele fought back tremendously to first draw level and overtook Yegezu with 300m left before the finish to win his first domestic title. Yegezu comfortably overcame the challenge of Tadesse to take second.
Jelila finally overcomes Merga
Like their senior compatriots Meseret Defar and Tirunesh Dibaba, youngsters Koreni Jelila and Asselefech Merga are developing a domestic rivalry that dates back to 2006. In this the latest episode of the ‘battle of the young protégés’, Jelila took an impressive victory in the senior women’s 8km.
Merga had beaten Jelila twice this year, in the 2007 Confidence Women First 5km and the 2007 TOYOTA Great Ethiopian Run 10km and she looked the favourite to take her third win this year when she powered to the head of a three-woman pack at the half way point of this race.
But unlike the rest of the chasing pack, only Jelila and Belaynesh Fekadu, winner of the 2006 Great Ethiopian Run, was able to survive the burst of pace.
With less than 2kms left, Fekadu was the first to find the scorching pace difficult to handle as she dropped back. Merga took the initiative and pushed hard up front in a bid to shake off Jelila.
But like the men’s corresponding race, Jelila refused to drop off. Instead, she seized the initiative in the final 200m to take victory.
Elshadai Negash for the IAAF
12km Senior Men
1. Dereje Debele (Defense) 34:41.96
2. Zenbaba Yegezu (St. George) 34:48.76
3. Tesfaye Tadesse (Prisons Police) 35:05.57
8km Senior Women
1. Koreni Jelila (Defense) 26:14.77
2. Asselefech Merga (Omedla) 26:27.75
3. Belaynesh Fekadu (Omedla) 26:44.06
8km Junior Men
1. Dejen Gebremeskel (Ethiopian Banks) 22:37.93
2. Hunegnaw Mesfin (Ethiopian Banks) 22:38.13
3. Tilahun Regassa (Prisons Police) 22:49.84
6km Junior Women
1. Bezunesh Urgessa (Omedla) 19:41.93
2. Bethlehem Moges (Defense) 19:48.24
3. Makeda Harouna (Prisons Police) 19:50.32