Dathan Ritzenhein wins the men's race at Campaccio (Giancarlo Colombo) © Copyright
Report San Giorgio su Legnano, Italy

Ritzenhein returns as Kisa leads Kenyan sweep at Campaccio

USA’s Dathan Ritzenhein and Kenya’s Janet Kisa took the honours on Tuesday (6) in San Giorgio su Legnano at the 58th edition of the Campaccio cross-country race, the first of two Italian IAAF Cross Country Permit meetings.

Both races were won by just one second. Ritzenhein held off 2012 European cross-country champion Andrea Lalli to win in 29:08 with Lalli’s Italian compatriot Daniele Meucci, the European marathon champion, completing the podium.

Kisa, meanwhile, made it two Italian victories in a row, one week after winning at the BOclassic. The African 5000m bronze medallist won from fellow Kenyan Peris Jepchirchir in 19:00 as Betsy Saina completed the Kenyan sweep in third.

Ritzenhein defeats host nation’s heroes

The early leading group comprised Meucci, Ritzenhein, Lalli, European steeplechase silver medallist Krysztian Zalewski, fellow Pole Tomasz Szykowiak, Italy’s Ahmed El Mazoury, Patick Nasti and Canada’s Mo Ahmed, and they went through the first kilometre in a conservative 3:09.

At 2km, Meucci, Ritzenhein, Lalli, El Mazoury, Ahmed, Nasti and Zalewski remained in the front, but just four remained as the leaders approached 5km in 14:49, led by Ahmed, Ritzenhein, Lalli and Meucci.

Ahmed was dropped as the three remaining leaders passed 6km in 17:45. On the penultimate lap, former US 5000m record-holder Ritzenhein pushed the pace, but Lalli and Meucci were still with him at 7km with just 3km to go.

At 8km, multiple European cross-country gold medallist Lalli edged ahead with Ritzenhein close behind with one lap remaining as Meucci was finally dropped.

On the final lap, the race came down to a spectacular neck-and-neck race between Ritzenhein and Lalli. In the closing kilometre, former world half-marathon bronze medallist Ritzenhein managed to open up a gap of one second on his Italian rival. Despite the strong support for Lalli from the local crowd, Ritzenhein held on the clinch the win in 29:08.

“I’m very happy as I have not run a cross-country race for a long time,” said Ritzenhein after recording his first victory on any surface since June 2012. “I am not in very good shape at the moment. Lalli and Meucci made it a very good race. Meucci took it out at the beginning, then Lalli put it down in the middle.”

Ritzenhein became the first US athlete, man or woman, to win in the 58-year history of the Campaccio meeting. But despite his success in San Giorgio su Legnano, the US runner is concentrating on the roads in 2015.

“I’m training for a marathon later this year but first I’m running the 4km in Edinburgh on Saturday,” said Ritzenhein, who turned 32 last week. “My goal is to qualify for the US Olympic marathon team at the US Trials in 13 months.”

Lalli, who won the first of his three European cross-country titles on this course in 2006, was delighted with his second-place finish in 29:09. The last time an Italian man made it on to the podium at the Campaccio meeting was 1994 when Umberto Pusterla finished second to Haile Gebrslassie.

“I could not do better today, even though I had some problems with my shoes,” he said. “I started my career with cross country, which is my first love, but I have been training for the marathon for two years so I didn’t expect to run so well. I’m now planning to train for 20 days In Kenya to prepare for the Paris Marathon and in the build-up I will run the Rome-Ostia Half-Marathon. I’m changing my training methods under the guidance of my new coaches, Renato Canova and Vittorio Di Saverio.”

Meucci, who will run his next marathon on 1 March at Lake Biwa, finished third in 29:33.

“I would have been happier with a win but I am now training for the marathon,” said Meucci, who intends on running the 26.2-mile distance at this year’s World Championships. “Two years ago I trained for cross country and I was in my best shape.”

Kisa leads historic sweep

Kenyans Janet Kisa, Peris Jepchirchir, Betsy Saina and Ethiopian junior Etegan Woldu dominated the women’s race, taking the lead from the outset with a comfortable margin over the chasing trio formed by rising Italian 1500m talent Federica Del Buono, Belgium’s Almensh Belete and USA’s Neely Spence.

The African quartet had a 10-second lead at halfway when they produced their decisive surge. After going through 4km in 12:54, the Kenyans pulled away from Woldu on the last lap.

The race came down to the final 200 metres when Kisa launched her kick, holding off Jepchirchir by one second in 19:00, just one second off Hiwot Ayalew’s course record set last year. It was the first time that Kenya had achieved a 1-2-3 finish in the women's race at Campaccio.

“It was a good race, but it was too windy,” said Commonwealth 5000m silver medallist Kisa, who hopes to challenge for the medals at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang on 28 March.

Saina crossed the finish-line in third place in 19:04, while Woldu, the first junior across the line, finished a distant fourth in 19:45, 11 seconds ahead of Spence. Belete, fourth at the European Cross Country Championships in Samokov, was the first European, finishing sixth in 20:11, one place and 16 seconds ahead of Del Buono.

On a great day of cross-country running, no fewer than 1500 runners from all ages and categories took part on a sunny with a temperature of 8°C.

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF

Leading results

Men (10km)
1 Dathan Ritzenhein (USA) 29:08
2 Andrea Lalli (ITA) 29:09
3 Daniele Meucci (ITA) 29:23
4 Ahmed El Mazoury (ITA) 29:44
5 Patrick Nasti (ITA) 29:44
6 Krystian Zalewski (POL) 29:58
7 Mo Ahmed (CAN) 30:12
8 Francois Marzetta (ITA) 31:14
9 Tomasz Szymowiak (POL) 31:57
10 Rolando Piana (ITA) 32:12

Women (6km)
1 Janet Kisa (KEN) 19:00
2 Peres Jepchirchir (KEN) 19:01
3 Betsy Saina (KEN) 19:04
4 Etagegn Woldu (ETH) 19:45
5 Neely Spence (USA) 19:56
6 Almenesh Belete (BEL) 20:11
7 Federica Del Buono (ITA) 20:27
8 Sara Dossena (ITA) 20:36
9 Valeria Roffino (ITA) 20:44
10 Sara Brogiato (ITA) 20:52