Mercy Cherono of Kenya wins the 3000m at the 2007 IAAF World Youth Championships in Ostrava (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Nairobi, Kenya

Kenyan cross country season opens

Kenya's cross country season started with a sensational discovery of Sammy Kitwara, a 20-year-old police recruit, who won the senior men's 12km race decisively today.

Kitwara from the Marakwet Highlands, some 100km north of Eldoret, which is home of Kenya's distance running, beat 186 athletes to stop the clock in 37:35 as Wilson Kiprop and Bernard Rotich followed in 37:45 and 37:55 respectively.

"I just waited strategically behind and kicked at the right time. I think I trained well and although I wasn't expecting to win, I knew I would run well," said Kitwara who also confirmed he has never been out of the country and hoped this would be his break thorough into the big league.

Kitwara was with the leading pack of athletes until the bell when he inched ahead briefly as if to test the leaders' strength, but reclined behind Rotich again. With about 1km to finish, he sprinted past the leaders and remained there until the finish.

Twenty-one-year-old Katunge Mutune beat 61 runners, among them, former three-time World champion Edith Masai, to win the women's 8km race in 28:58.

Masai, 40, was second in 29:12, but was quick to say she only ran to sharpen her speed ahead of the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon on 2 December. "I am training for major marathon races ahead, which will hopefully climax at the Beijing Olympics," said Masai, the three-time World XC short course champion.

Mutune was in the Kenyan team to 2003 World Youth Championships in Sherbrooke, Canada, but missed the medal in the 800m. Last month she won a 10km road race in Copenhagen, Denmark.

World Youth 3000m champion Mercy Cherono, 16, won the junior women’s 6km.

Held at the Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Corporation Ngong Road course, Nairobi which is Kenya's traditional home of cross country, the season opener, ran on a bright sunny morning, attracted a huge number of fans who have waited anxiously for the season opener.

This season's seven-race series have been sponsored by Kenya Commercial Bank, Kenya's biggest bank with outlets all over the country, with a Jackpot of Sh200,000 going to winners of three races in a series which includes the national cross country championships.
Omulo Okoth (The Standard) for IAAF

Leading results

6km Junior Women
1. Mercy Cherono 20:27
2. Kambua Muyanga 20:38
3. Lucia Muya 21:05
4. Nelly Chebet 21:14
5. Joyce Chepkemoi 21:18
6. Grace Nyakweya 21:30
7. Pauline Mulwa 21:30
8. Irene Chepngetich 21:46

8km Senior Women
1. Katunge Mutune 28:58
2. Edith Masai 29:12
3. Millicent Gathoni 29:25
4. Alice Munyutu 29:27
5. Jane Murage 29:31
6. Lydia Njeri 29:34
7. Eunice Mumbua 29:41
8. Regina Cherotich 29:46

8km Junior Men
1. Musyoki Musyoka 24:21
2. Leonard Oloitiptip 24:31
3. Dennis Masai 24:42
4. Isaiah Ondiek 24:50
5. Jonathan Muia 24:55
6. Ronald Kipchumba 24:57
7. Bernard Mureithi 25:11
8. John Mwangangi 25:20

12km Senior Men
1. Sammy Kitwara 37:35 
2. Wilson Kiprop 37:45
3. Bernard Rotich 37:55
4. David Ndirangu 38:00
5. Kiru Kipyegon 38:05
6. Wilfred Cheserek 38:06
7. Josephat Mokaya 38:09
8. Sammy Karanja 38:18