Uganda’s Thomas Ayeko and Ethiopia’s Birtukan Fente Alemu took the honours at the IAAF Antrim Cross Country International, the last of this winter’s IAAF Cross Country Permit meetings, on Saturday (14).
Ayeko, who also won in Antrim two years ago, covered the 10km course at Greenmount in 31:27, moving away from Kenya’s Edwin Soi in the last kilometre for a convincing victory.
“I am very happy to return to Northern Ireland and win. This is a venue I love coming to and it is an honour to win here again. It was a good field and winning is a great feeling,” said the winner.
Soi, the 2008 Olympic Games 5000m bronze medallist, came home 13 seconds is arrears in 31:40 with his compatriot and former world junior 3000m steeplechase champion Jonathan Ndiku third in 32:25.
In cold conditions, and on a slightly adjusted course from previous years, Ndiku took an early lead as with Sol, Ayeko and Kenya's Gideon Kimosop forming an early breakaway group.
The pace increased substantially on the second lap, with Ayeko, Sol and Ndiku now together with a 200 metres gap to the chasing pack including the flagging Kimosop.
At the midway mark. Ayeko and Sol pulled away, with Ndiku chasing a long way behind along with Kimosop; but the joint leaders never eased up before Ayeko changed gear just over 200 metres from home, Soi easing off in the final 100 metres with the race for first place having been lost
Kimosop was fourth in 32:26 having been just edged out by Ndiku in the battle for the final place on the podium while Andy Maud was the first British runner home in fifth, crossing the line in 33:19.
Fente Alemu was arguably an even more impressive winner of the women’s 7.2km race, crossing the line in 24:12 and winning by 16 seconds from another former world junior champion, Great Britain’s Stephanie Twell.
“This was a hard race to win because of the other good athletes against me but I had enough in the final lap to win,” reflected Fente Alemu.
Twell, who won this race as a teenager in 2009, was second in 24:28 with Ethiopia’s Birtukan Adamu, like her compatriot generally known as a steeplechaser on the track, third in 24:49.
Fente Alemu, Twell, Adamu and Selinah Kangogo of Kenya formed the early lead group with Twell and the two Ethiopians then trading places at the front as the second of four laps drew to a close, before Fente Alemu pulled away from her two rivals just after the halfway point.
Coilin Duffy for the IAAF