Kenya’s Kiprono Menjo and Eunice Jepkorir secured a Kenyan double at the ‘53rd Cross Internacional de San Sebastián’ on Sunday. The competition took place in a nice temperature of 14ºC on a sunny day with a packed stand of 5000 spectators supporting the athletes.
Both races were decided in their closing stages with Menjo’s fellow Kenyan Thomas Longosiwa finishing barely one second adrift and Eritrea’s runner-up Simret Sultan sharing Jepkorir’s winning time.
MEN - Menjo succeeds...having raced in Kenya the day before!
The men’s 10,000m event had been billed as a clash between the strong Kenyan contingent assembled headed by Osaka’s 10,000m 8th placed Kiprono Menjo, and the multiple European Cross Country champion Sergiy Lebid, himself a brilliant victor here three years ago ahead of Tariku Bekele. Yet reportedly the 32-year-old Ukrainian had been suffering from fever over the days prior to the event and he was never a factor in the battle.
The race opened at a moderate pace and a large 15-pack men still remained at the fore at midway (5km) which were covered in 15:23. It was then that the favourites began to step up the pace and the leading group gradually decreased in size. By the bell only Spain’s Carlos Castillejo (a 13:19.47 5000m specialist) managed to be in contention alongside Menjo, Longosiwa and Zimbabwe’s Cuthbert Nyasango.
Menjo, who had placed second last weekend behind his countryman Richard Matelong at a XC permit in Huesca, Spain, made his victorious move at the beginning of the long home-straight. In the flight for the finish Menjo held off a late challenge provided by Longosiwa – a 12:51.95 5000m performer who ranked eighth last Sunday in Seville XC – and the Madrid-based Nyasango, and came home in 29:50 marginally ahead of his pursuers.
As for Castillejo, he maintained his chances until the last kilometre but finally had to settle for fourth six seconds behind Menjo but nine seconds clear of Morocco’s Abdelhadi El Mouaziz. Seven-time European champion Lebid came a distant 21th some 3:18 adrift the winner.
But the big surprise of the day came when it was made known that Menjo had competed the day before (26) at the Kenya Armed Forces XC Championships in Nairobi, a race won by Barnabas Kosgei over 12km.
As a member of the Armed Forces, the 28-year-old Menjo was committed to taking part at that race where he finished a long way off the podium. Once the event was over he flew from Nairobi to Paris where he stayed overnight before travelling to San Sebastián on the same day as the race. Menjo cut it so tight that he only got just enough time to put on his spikes a few seconds before the gun under the astonished looks of all assembled.
WOMEN - Third time lucky for Jepkorir
Earlier in the afternoon, World 3000m Steeplechase bronze medallist Eunice Jepkorir had already written the first chapter of the Kenyan success by out-sprinting Simret Sultan of Eritrea who was a top-ten finisher at the 2007 Mombasa World XC.
Sunday’s race was Jepkorir’s third outing on Spanish soil in less than two weeks following a runner-up place to Marta Domínguez at the ‘Nocturna de San Antón’ (16 Jan) and a below-par fifth place at last Sunday’s IAAF XC leg in Seville. She had also been the vanquisher of World 5000m silver medallist Vivian Cheruiyot at the Alcobendas XC permit in December,
As has become usual over the last few years on the Spanish XC circuit, the early pace was not particularly fast. By the midway point of the 5.7km contest an interesting battle between three Africans and three Europeans had developed. Africa was represented by Jepkorir, Sultan and Morocco’s Soud Kambouchia, while Europe’s colours where carried by the medallists from the 2007 European XC in Toro, the Spanish pair of Marta Domínguez and Rosa Morató plus France’s Julie Coulaud. However, shortly after the bell (2.1km left) Domínguez and the French runner lost ground.
Jepkorir, who is married to men’s victor Kiprono Menjo, edged into the lead with 300m to go, a place she didn’t relinquish despite strong opposition from Sultan who at the finish was given the same time as the Kenyan - 17:54.
Steeplechaser Morató pipped Kambouchia in the closing 200m to take a creditable third place just three seconds adrift Jepkorir, while Coulaud took some minor revenge on Domínguez by taking fifth place two seconds clear of the Spaniard.
On a statistical note, today’s order between the Toro medallists was just the opposite from that occasion when Domínguez snatched gold ahead of Coulaud and Morató.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF
1. Kiprono Menjo (Ken) 29:50
2. Thomas Longosiwa (Ken) 29:51
3. Cuthbert Nyasango (Zim) 29:51
4. Carlos Castillejo (Spain) 29:56
5. Abdelhadi El Mouaziz (Mor) 30:05
6. Eliseo Martín (Esp) 30:06
7. José Ríos (Esp) 30:17
8. Abdelkedir Lamachi (Mor) 30:18
9. Alejandro Suárez (Mex) 30:19
10. Alberto García (Esp) 30:21
1. Eunice Jepkorir (Ken) 17:54
2. Simret Sultan (Eri) 17:54
3. Rosa Morató (Esp) 17:57
4. Soud Kambouchia (Mor) 17:58
5. Julie Coulaud (Fra) 18:07
6. Marta Domínguez (Esp) 18:09
7. Judit Plá (Esp) 18:17
8. Cristina Petite (Esp) 18:53
9. Raquel LLamas (Esp) 19:02
10. Rosana Fernández (Esp) 19:11