Selemon Barega leads the men's race at the Cinque Mulini (Giancarlo Colombo) © Copyright
Report San Vittore Olona, Italy

Barega and Degefa upstage the seniors at Cinque Mulini

Ethiopian rising stars Selemon Barega and Beyenu Degefa were the winners at the 85th edition of the Cinque Mulini, the sixth leg of the IAAF Cross Country Permit circuit, in San Vittore Olona on Sunday (22).

Barega and Degefa won the men’s 5000m and women’s 3000m titles respectively at the IAAF World Junior Championships Bydgoszcz 2016, but they have each won a handful of international cross-country races this winter, marking themselves out as favourites for the U20 titles at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Kampala 2017.

In the men’s 12km race today, a four-man group comprising Barega, Victor Kiplangat, Uganda’s Fred Musobo and Morocco’s Olympic steeplechase fourth-place finisher Soufiane El Bakkali took the lead through the second lap in 9:07.

About 15 minutes into the race, Musobo took the initiative and moved into the lead during the third lap. Only Barega and El Bakkali were able to stick with him, while Kiplangat lost ground. The leading trio went through the third lap in 17:26, four seconds ahead of Kiplangat.

Barega pushed the pace on the last lap and opened up an 11-second gap on El Kabbali and Musobo. The 17-year-old went on to win in 33:43, beating El Bakkali by 13 seconds with Musobo finishing a further second in arrears.

Italy’s Yeman Crippa, the European under-23 cross-country bronze medallist, finished strongly on the final lap and overhauled Kiplangat to take fourth place in 34:42.

Many runners in the past have used the Cinque Mulini as a springboard towards success at the Olympic Games and World Championships, and Barega could well continue that tradition.

“It was an easy win,” he said. “The most difficult aspect of the race was running through the mills. I am planning to run at the Ethiopian Cross Country Championships in Addis Ababa on 12 February to qualify for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Kampala.”

Degefa out-kicks Fentie

In the women’s 6km, Italian steeplechase record-holder and Olympic finalist Elena Romagnolo took the early lead. She went through the first lap in 9:30 and was closely followed by Degefa, Kalkidan Fentie, Bahrain’s Bontu Rebitu, Valeria Roffino and 2014 world U20 5000m silver medallist Alemitu Hawi.

Fentie and Degefa, the world U20 champions at 5000m and 3000m respectively, started pushing the pace shortly after the third kilometre, opening up a gap of 10 seconds over Romagnolo.

Degefa launched her finishing kick during the final lap to cross the finish line in 18:23, holding off Fentie by four seconds. Rebitu, the world U20 5000m bronze medallist, finished third in 18:48, while Romagnolo – who gave birth to her first daughter 11 months ago – made a good comeback to finish fourth in 19:05.

“I had never run through a mill before; I’ve never seen such a course in my life. It was unique,” said Degefa. “The course was hard with a lot of ups and downs but I enjoyed this day in perfect weather conditions with no wind. I will return to Ethiopia to train for the National Cross Country Trials with the goal to qualify for the World Cross Country Championships in Kampala.”

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF

Leading results

Men’s 12km
1 Selemon Barega (ETH) 33:43
2 Soufiane El Bakkali (MAR) 33:56
3 Fred Musobo (UGA) 33:57
4 Yemaneberhan Crippa (ITA) 34:42
5 Victor Kiplangat (UGA) 34:45
6 David Nilsson (SWE) 34:53
7 Yohanes Chiappinelli (ITA) 35:04
8 Samuele Dini (ITA) 35:07
9 Faniel Eyob Gebrehiwet (ITA) 35:15
10 Lorenzo Dini (ITA) 35:19

Women’s 6km
1 Beyenu Degefa (ETH) 18:23
2 Kalkidan Fentie (ETH) 18:27
3 Bontu Rebitu (BRN) 18:48
4 Elena Romagnolo (ITA) 19:05
5 Valeria Roffino (ITA) 19:13
6 Francesca Bertoni (ITA) 19:21
7 Alemitu Amara Hawi (ETH) 19:26
8 Christine Santi (ITA) 19:27
9 Sara Bottarelli (ITA) 19:28
10 Roberta Ciappini (ITA) 19:32