Addis Ababa, EthiopiaAllAfrica Games 10,000m silver medallist Tadesse Tola and African junior 5000m bronze medallist Bezunesh Urgessa were the men's and women's race winners at the inaugural Bahir Dar Cross Country meet in Bahir Dar, 560kms north of the Ethiopian capital, on Sunday (14).
The race saw around 150 athletes from clubs and regions around the country take part.
MEN - Tola back to best form
The focus of the men's 12km race was always going to be Tadesse Tola following his return to the cross country after a 2008 season marred by injury and loss-of-form.
The 23-year old, who was seventh in the 2007 World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa, Kenya and finished second over the 10,000m at the All-Africa Games in Algiers, Algeria that year, showed once again that he is a force to be reckoned with on the cross country circuit with a cum-from-behind victory in Zanzelma, a suburb of Bahir Dar, which is Ethiopia's third largest city.
However, contrary to his customary front running style, Tola adopted cautious tactics on a course which was unfamiliar to many of the runners.
Instead, it was youngster Tilahun Regassa who took the race to his challengers from the outset. After a conservative start, Regassa led for two successive laps from the front, the strength of his effort dropping off many challengers.
It was only near the end of the fifth lap that Regassa's inexperience played against him, with Tola, who until then had bided his time and conserved his energy, overtaking him at this point.
Tola crossed the lined in 35:32.73 nearly three seconds ahead of Regassa (35:36.33) with Hunegnaw Mesfin coming home in third 35:37.78.
WOMEN - Urgessa dominates, Mergia only sixth
In the women's race, it was African junior 5000m bronze medallist Bezunesh Urgessa who perhaps surprised a few people in the crowd with a dominant display of front running to take victory.
This is the first time that Urgessa, who has featured in many of Ethiopia's teams in junior championships over the last two years, has taken any senior racing honours domestically.
Mamitu Disasa and Atsede Habtamu finished second and third in the race that saw pre-race favourite Asselefech Mergia only finishing sixth.
Elshadai Negash for the IAAF
1. Tadesse Tola (Prisons Police) 35:32.73
2. Tilahun Regassa (Prisons Police) 35:36.33
3. Hunegnaw Mesfin (Unattached) 35:37.78
1. Bezunesh Urgessa (Omedla) 26:57.14
2. Mamitu Disasa (Oromiya Police) 27:00.29
3. Atsede Habtamu (Omedla) 27:06.80