Ethiopian 10,000m championships runner-up Tadesse Tola’s surprise victory over Olympic and World 10,000m medallist Sileshi Sihine and World junior 5000m champion Tariku Bekele was the pick of the 24th Jan Meda Cross Country International - the national qualifying meet for the 35th IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Mombassa, Kenya - which took place today.
Double world cross country bronze medalist Meselech Melkamu and World junior 10,000m champion Ibrahim Jeylan were in outstanding form in the senior women’s 8km and junior men’s 8km races respectively.
In the women’s junior race, little-known Sule Utara defeated established names like Emebet Eta’a and Bezunesh Urgessa.
Tola shocks favourites in men’s 12km
Sihine and T. Bekele may have been the outstanding favourites going into the men’s 12km race on Sunday, but that did not faze youngster Tadesse Tola.
After the usual frenetic start to the 6-lap race at the Jan Meda race course, a leading of twelve runners stayed together for most of the first three laps with Tola looking comfortable at the head of the pack.
With two laps of the race to go, the pack dwindled down to seven runners with Tola leading Tariku Bekele, Markos Genetti, Ketema Negussie, Chala Lemi, Solomon Tsige, and Sihine.
T. Bekele and Markos Genetti were the first two runners to drop off with a lap to go as the pack was further reduced to five. Tsige momentarily pushed the pace with half a lap to go, but he had little answer when Tola responded with an even stronger finishing kick to take his first Jan Meda cross country senior title.
“I expected the race to be difficult, but I am happy about my result,” confirmed a delighted Tola. “I do not want to say anything about Mombassa yet. We will have a month. I will be training hard for a good result.”
Melkamu confirms top form with successful title defence
Meselech Melkamu made an impressive start to 2006/07 season with two Spanish cross country victories and a second fastest ever performance for the women’s 3000m indoors. Here, she continued such scintillating form with a tactical victory in the senior women’s 8km.
Melkamu waited until 500m to go to evade the challenge of Mestawot Tufa, seventh in the World Cross Country long race in Fukuoka last year, to run home for victory.
Before the penultimate final lap, a leading pack of five runners - Tufa, Melkamu, Ahaza Kiros, Wude Ayalew, and Koreni Jelila - had interchanged the lead for much of the first three laps. At the bell, Melkamu and Tufa flew away from the trio of chasers before Melkamu’s finishing experience made the difference at the end.
“Please do not assume that was an easy victory. I know the challenge in Mombasa will he huge, but I am going all out for victory. I am in the best form of my life,” said Melkamu.
Patience has its rewards for Jeylan
When Ibrahim Jeylan raced clear for an outstanding victory in this year’s men’s junior race, huge shouts of “Jeylan, Jeylan” easily went up in the crowds.
Last year Jeylan took victories in the Ethiopian Championships 10,000m and the IAAF World Junior championships in Beijing, China where he won the 10,000m.
Jeylan, 17, buried in the large leading pack for much of the four lap race trusted in his usually-reliable finishing kick to oust the challenge of Demesew Tsega, the star of the Ethiopian Marathon relay championships.
“It is too early to speak about Mombassa,” said Jeylan. “It was a good test for me here and hopefully I can work hard on my endurance before Mombasa.”
In the junior women’s race, unknown runner Sule Utara took hold of the competition in the final lap and never relinquished her lead before upsetting Emebet Eta’a, fourth over the 1500m at the World Junior Championships in Beijing 2006.
Elshadai Negash for the IAAF
6km Junior Women
1. Sule Utara (Defense) 20:16.50
2. Emebet Eta’a (Defense) 20:20.41
3. Aberu Kebede (Prisons) 20:21.32
4. Bezunesh Urgessa (Omedla) 20:32.26
5. Konjit Tilahun (Ethiopian Banks) 20:29.23
6. Abebu Gela (Ethiopian Banks) 20:42.91
8km Junior Men
1. Ibrahim Jeylan (Muger) 23:01.20
2. Habtamu Fekadu (Defense) 23:10.66
3. Demesew Tsega (St. George) 23:17.71
4. Emana Merga (Defense) 23:18.79
5. Tola Bane (Defense) 23:27.78
6. Abraham Cherkose (St. George) 23:34.83
8km Senior Women
1. Meselech Melkamu (EEPCO) 26:51.71
2. Mestawot Tufa (Omedla) 27:04.08
3. Wude Ayalew (EEPCO) 27:11.86
4. Koreni Jelila (Defense) 27:16.09
5. Ahaza Kiros (EEPCO) 27:25.57
6. Asselefech Merga (Crime Prevention) 27:32.24
12km Senior Men
1. Tadesse Tola (Prisons Police) 35:13.21
2. Solomon Tsige (St. George) 35:22.53
3. Sileshi Sihine (Prisons Police) 35:29.95
4. Ketema Negussie (Muger) 35:32.25
5. Chala Lemi (Ethiopian Banks) 35:34.11
6. Tariku Bekele (Muger) 35:51.25
7. Markos Genetti (Oromiya Police) 35:54.01
8. Abebe Dinkessa (Prisons Police) 36:03.15