Mark Kiptoo crosses the finish line to win the 2010 Armed Forces Cross Country Championships 12km race at Kahawa, Nairobi. (Elias Makori) © Copyright
General News 25 January 2010 – Nairobi, Kenya

Kiptoo and Chenonge battle to Kenyan Armed Forces titles

Nairobi, KenyaKenya’s Armed Forces are spoiling for a fight with the Kenya Police after a dramatic weekend of cross country running that saw Linet Masai, one of the favourites for the gold medal at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz (March 28), upstaged by World 5,000m champion Vivian Cheruiyot at the Kenya Police national championships Saturday (22).

As the Kenya Police picked their team at the Ngong Racecourse circuit for the February 20 national championships that will also act as Kenya’s trials for the world meet, across the city of Nairobi, Kenya’s Armed Forces also held their national championships where veterans prevailed over fledgling upstarts in spectacular fashion.

Kenya’s fives times World cross country champion and former Marathon World record holder, Paul Tergat, watched from the sidelines, cheering on his Moi Air Base team as fellow airman Mark Kiptoo ran a tactical race to defeat defending 12km champion Vincent Kiprop, a man almost 10 years his junior.

In the women’s 8km race, the defending champion also fell when Innes Chenonge upset Linet Chepkurui with veteran former World 10,000m champion Sally Barsosio hanging in there for a 10th place finish on a challenging Kahawa Garrison course.

The men’s race was a real battle as the 33-year-old Kiptoo, running for the Laikipia Air Base, took the cautious approach, training the lead pack that included Leonard Oloitiptip of Moi Air Base (MAB), Gideon Gathimba (Laikipia Air Base), Shadrack Kosgei (Kahawa), Josephat Menjo (MAB) and Kiplimo Kimutai (LAB).

It then went down to a three-horse race between Kiptoo, Kiprop (running for home team Kahawa Garrison) and in the final 200 metres, a battle from which Kiptoo, Kenya’s team captain to last year’s World Cross Country Championships in Amman, emerged victorious.

“As the (Laikipia Air Base) team captain, it was my duty to bring together my team to a position that was safe before letting them battle for victory,” said Kiptoo, also a three times Armed Forces 5000m champion on the track who cruised to victory in 36 minutes, 8.1 seconds.

“Unlike last year when it was rainy, the sun was not kind on us this time. The course proved tough. The race was open for everybody and I didn’t care whether there was a defending champion in our midst or not. I am glad to have won,” added Kiptoo who finished seventh at last year’s Forces meet before finishing fourth at the national championships to make Kenya’s team to Amman.

For the 25-year-old Kiprop, the battle was lost but the big war lies ahead at the national championships where the Kenya Police and Kenya Prisons teams will provide the biggest opposition to the Armed Forces.

 “We will immediately embark on residential training to arm ourselves well and, God-willing, we shall prevail at the nationals,” he said.

 “I ran out of gas the last 50 metres but it was a good battle that was won by a credible person,” said Kiprop.

For the 19-year-old fresh recruit Oloitiptip, making his debut at the Forces championship, the race was a great learning experience: “I wasn’t confident whether to stay ahead of the pack or behind. It’s a great lesson for though.”

In the women’s race, the defending champion Chepkurui was unlucky after she lost her spikes four kilometres to the finish to surrender her crown to Chenonge who breasted the tape in 27:13.1 to lead a Moi Air Base podium sweep.

“I didn’t expect to win, what with a star-studded field. I thank God for that,” Chenonge said after clocking  27:22.7 followed by  Olympic 1500m champion Nancy Jebet Lagat in an impressive third in 27:31.8.

After a second place last year, Olympian Peninah Arusei (27:33.0) was fourth followed by the 2007 World Cross Country junior bronze medallist Veronica Nyaruai.

“I am not satisfied since I wanted victory,” said Chepkurui. “I am disappointed that someone stepped on my spikes forcing me to run barefoot for the last four kilometres. Well, a soldier lives to fight another day.”

Preceding the cross country races, there was a 15km road race with the men’s and women’s titles going to Geoffrey Gikuni (42:48.0) and Kellen Waithera (52:01.0).

Elias Makori for the IAAF

Leading Results -
MEN (12 km):
 1. Mark Kiptoo         36:08.5
 2. Vincent Kiprop      36:10.0
 3. Josephat Menjo      36:11.0
 4. Leonard Oloitiptip  36:12.3
 5. Kiplimo Kimutai     36:16.6
 6. Shadrack Koskei     36:27.0
 7. Sammy Kipketer      36:31.0
 8. John Korir          36:35.4
 9. Arita Omiso         36:41.6
10. Julius Kirui        36:50.0

Women’s 8km:
 1. Innes Chenonge    27:13.1
 2. Linet Chepkurui   27:22.7
 3. Nancy Jebet Lagat 27:31.8
 4. Penina Arusei     27:33.0
 5. Veronica Nyaruai  27:52.8
 6. Mercy Njoroge     27:57.6
 7. Gladys Cherono    28:13.0
 8. Sharon Chemtai    28.17.0
 9. Jemimma Chelangat 28:26.4
10. Sally Barsosio    28:42.6

15km Road Race:
Men -
 1. Geoffrey Gikuni  42:48.0
 2. Albert Kangor    42:54.0
 3. Richard Bett     43:27.0

Women -
 1. Kellen Waithera   52:01.0
 2. Everline Atancha  52:22.0
 3. Sheila Chesang    53:07.8