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Addis Ababa, EthiopiaKoreni Jelila, the 2009 Ethiopian Airlines Great Ethiopian Run 10km winner, and unknown Gishu Jida were the winners of the women’s and men’ senior titles at the 3rd Sululta Cross Country meeting- the fourth part of the domestic cross country series organized by the Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) - in Sululta, 20 kilometres north of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
Middle distance runner Shito Wincha also grabbed a surprise win over favorite Genet Yalew in the junior women’s race with Azmeraw Bekele winning the junior men’s contest.
Jelila grabs third win in four races – senior women’s race
There was little surprise in the senior women’s race as Jelila continued her outstanding form this season with her third victory in four races since September. The 25-year-old, who made a successful debut in the Venice Marathon in October by finishing second in a respectable 2:28.41; has made a stunning transformation winning cross country races in Sendafa and now in Sululta, while taking a dominant victory in the 2009 Ethiopian Airlines Great Ethiopian Run 10km two months ago.
In Sululta, Jelila had another difficult field to contend with, with World championships marathon bronze medallist Asselefech Mergia, 2008 World junior Cross Country silver medallist Emebet Eta, and World junior 5000m champion Sule Utura posing a realistic challenge to her winning streak.
Jelila and Utura exchanged leads in front of a large pack of ten athletes for the first 2km of the four-lap 8km contest. Utura threatened a major breakaway at the halfway point, but Jelila stuck with her and made her own decisive breakthrough at 6km to take victory in 28:30.03. Utura was three second behind the race winner in 28:33.49 with unknown Fayesse Tadesse crossing the line in third, some 13 seconds behind Utura.
“The wind was too difficult and made the competition difficult,” Jelila said. “I am not sure if I will take part in Jan Meda (Ethiopia’s world cross country trials), but I would definitely want to participate in Poland.”
Jida shocks Chane – men’s senior race
Domestic cross country races in Ethiopia rarely throw in surprise winners as the tough racing conditions tends to favor experienced runners. But Gishu Jida’s victory in Sululta took even the experienced observers by surprise in what was expected to be a successful homecoming for Abera Chane, winner of the domestic cross country races in Sendafa and Bahir Dar, who took an impressive victory in Italy last Sunday.
Yetwale Kinde, 32nd in the World junior race in Amman last year, led the strong field through the opening 2kms and was later joined by Jida. Their brave front running tactics caught the attention of the crowd, but they were closely checked by experienced runners like Chane, Imane Merga (fourth in the World championships 10,000m), Yemane Tsegaye (fourth in the World championships marathon), and Habtamu Fekadu (fifth in the 2008 World cross country senior race).
The large group stayed together until the last kilometre when Chane and Jida made a penultimate breakaway. Many expected Chane to use his experience to best his young understudy, but Jida surprised everyone when he coasted past the experienced runner to take victory in 37:45:61. Chane held off the challenge from Fekadu Lema to finish second.
“The competition wasn’t easy, especially the wind made it so difficult,” Jida said. “I want to do well like our hero athletes. I want to repeat Kenenisa (Bekele)’s success on cross country.”
Victories for Wincha and Bekele - junior races
In the junior women’s 6km, Shito Wincha took a surprise victory over Genet Yalew and Emebet Anteneh, who had finished third and fourth in the World youth championships 3000m in Bressanone last year.
Her decisive move came in the 4km where she evaded the intentions of early leader Meseret Mengistu to take victory in 21:06.32, five and 12 seconds ahead of Yalew and Anteneh respectively. Her victory was all the more surprising because Wincha normally runs the 800m and 1500m and has very little experience over the cross country.
“The competition was good,” said Wincha. “It is my first time to run in Sululta. I was winner of Addis Ababa cross country championships and I want to win again in the Jan Meda (Ethiopia’s world cross country trials). Then I want to compete in Poland representing my country and I want to be famous.”
The men’s junior also produced another unlikely winner with Azmeraw Bekele taking victory. After a largely congested first half of the race, Bekele (no relation to Kenenisa Bekele) made two moves that won him the race. The first came at 6km where he moved to the front of a leading group of nine runners. The second was another burst of speed which took him clear of early leader Million Yehualashet for victory in 24:40.76.
“The competition today wasn’t tough for me,” he said. “But a week before, I was fourth in a race in Assela and was trying not to repeat the same mistake I did there. Today was windy but because I trained well, it wasn’t difficult. In the coming month, I want to take part on the trials and get a result that would help me take part in Poland.”
Elshadai Negash (with the assistance of Tadele Assefa) for the IAAF