Displaying a brilliant tactical performance, Lornah Kiplagat thrilled the enthusiastic crowd with her dominating victory at the 12th SPAR European Cross Country Championships, claiming the first-ever title for the Netherlands.
Making her move about midway through the last lap, Kiplagat pulled away for a 19:55 win over the 6.5Km course, five seconds ahead of Germany’s Sabrina Mockenhaupt. It was the Kenyan-born Kiplagat’s debut at the continental championships.
“I had to play on some tactics,” said Kiplagat, dismissing a reporter’s suggestion that her victory was an easy one. “It wasn’t just like snapping my fingers. I had to work hard for it.”
And she did, exhibiting the patience she’s collected as one of the world’s premiere long distance runners. After Briton Liz Yelling took a relatively big lead over the course’s 1.49km starting lap, the field gradually narrowed the margin. Six minutes into the race, Hungary’s Aniko Kalovics led a fairly tight lead pack, with Kiplagat, Liz Yelling, Mockenhaupt, and defending champion Hayley Yelling in tow. A little over two minutes later, Kiplagat took a brief lead with Mockenhaupt following. Swede Johanna Nilsson, who last month took a commanding win at the NCAA championships, gradually caught the leaders as well, swelling the ranks of podium contenders. After a conservative start of her own, Olivera Jevtic of Serbia and Montenegro fought her way into contention.
Unable to shake her off
Mockenhaupt jumped to the lead at about the 12:30 point, with Nilsson moving up behind her, but the pair was unable to shake Kiplagat, who was sitting back, comfortably biding her time, perhaps already envisioning the hand slaps she would give to fans along the homestretch.
“They counted on me and inspired me,” Kiplagat said of the crowd lining the course. “I wanted to give something back.”
When Kiplagat made her break, the battle instantly became one for the remaining podium spots. Mockenhaupt held off the quick-closing Swede to finish second, remarkably, the first ever medal for Germany in the women’s senior race.
“I’m just really, really happy,” said Mockenhaupt, the German national champion. “It is my first international medal. It really went well.”
Nilsson, who didn’t decide on whether she would race in Tilburg until a week after her NCAA victory, said she didn’t really know much about her competitors here, and was merely looking for a top-10 or top-20 finish.
“I took about a week to decide, and then trained hard for a bit,” said Nilsson, a student at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. “I ran a little conservatively at the beginning, then built on it towards the end. It felt terrific.”
Jevtic, a four-time bronze medallist who was on the mend from injury prior to this competition, was fourth in 20:04, 11 seconds clear of Kalovics, a pre-race favorite. Hayley Yelling struggled over the final kilometre, and finished sixth.
Team honours go Russia
With 52 points, Russia edged Great Britain to capture its third team title, 52 to 54, with France (73) repeating as bronze medallists. An off day for defending champions Portugal (78 points, fourth) kept them off the podium for the first time since 1997.
Junior Women’s Race – Gun-to-tape win for Bobocel
A front-running strategy for Romania’s Ancuta Bobocel paid off, propelling her to a two-second victory over Emily Pidgeon of Great Britain. The 18-year-old Bobocel, who was second at these championships a year ago, jumped to the lead from the gun and stayed there en route to a 15:23 performance over the 4830m course.
“The race went as expected,” said Bobocel, who prepared for the championships at a team high altitude camp in Pihtra-Arsa. “It was a good race, and I’m very happy.”
Bobocel’s decisive move came about 7:30 into the race, when she produced a surge that opened a five metre gap on Pidgeon, and defending bronze medallist Marta Romo of Spain. Pidgeon, the 16-year-old European junior champion at 5000 metres, fought on valiantly and gave up no more ground, but couldn’t make up the deficit either.
“I left a gap and kept it at the same difference,” Pidgeon said. “But I couldn’t close it at the end.”
Susan Kuijken produced the first Dutch surprise of the day, with a strong finish over the final kilometre to finish third and claim the first Dutch medal since Gert-Jan Liefers won the inaugural men’s junior title in 1997. Romo, who turns 18 on Christmas Day, faltered in the waning stages, and faded to 14th.
Britain's squad wins through again
Pidgeon, backed up by Morag Maclarty’s sixth place finish and Stephanie Twell’s seventh, cruised to the team title with 30 points, comfortably ahead of defending champion Romania’s 49. Russia, with 60 points, repeated as bronze medallist. This was the fourth overall team title for the British junior women.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF
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