The 28th edition of the Fukuoka International Cross Country incorporated the Asian Cross Country Championships and, as has become the norm in the middle and long-distances at Asian championships, the senior races were dominated by East Africans running for the Gulf states on Saturday (22).
Tejitu Daba, the second counter of Bahrain's bronze medal-winning team at the 2013 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz, improved on her silver medal from the 2012 edition in Qingzhen, China, with a bold display over the last lap of the women’s 6km race.
The 22-year-old, who moved to the front at the start of the third and final lap, crossed the line in 19:23 and a comfortable seven seconds ahead of Alia Mohammed Saeed, who now runs for the United Arab Emirates.
Fellow Bahraini Mimi Belete, winner of the IAAF Cross Country Permit race in Antrim at the start of the year, didn't cover the break on the second lap and finished a distant third in 19:55 to comprise an all-Ethiopian-born podium.
Less than a month after her 2:26:46 marathon debut in Osaka, Sairi Maeda was the first Japanese to finish in fifth in 20:02.
The senior men's 10km was won by Japanese-based Kenyan Karemi Thuku, who has twice won the junior race in Fukuoka.
Coached by Koichi Morishita, the man who masterminded the career of the late Sammy Wanjiru, Thuku upstaged a strong team from Bahrain. The 19-year-old won in 28:43, nine seconds ahead of Aweke Ayalew, who was representing his adopted nation of Bahrain at a major championship for the first time.
Bahraini runners took the top five places in Qingzhen two years ago and they had three in the top five this year with Isaac Korir and Alemu Bekele taking fourth and fifth in 29:01 and 29:19 respectively.
The junior men's 8km was dominated by Japanese-based Kenyans with Paul Kamais prevailing in 23:17 while Yuka Kobayashi narrowly won the junior women's 6km in 20:25 ahead of Yuri Nozoe, who was credited with the same time.
USA dominate NACAC Championships
Joseph Gray, who was fourth at the US Cross-Country Championships in Boulder last weekend, won the senior 8km and led the United States to the team title in Mount Irvine, Tobago on Saturday (22).
Gray covered the 8km course at the Mount Irvine Golf Course in 24:14 to defeat Mexico's Oscar Ceron by 12 seconds.
Kellyn Johnson, who was also fourth in Boulder, won the women's senior 6km in 20:10 by 20 seconds while Sean McGorty, who won the junior race in Boulder, took the spoils in the junior men's 6km.
Jaimie Phelan led a Canadian clean sweep in the junior women's 4km, winning in 13:39.
Belete and D'Hoedt triumphant on home soil again
Fresh from a victory in Rotselaar last weekend, Almensh Belete won again over 4.5km at the penultimate Lotto CrossCup race in Dour on Sunday (23).
The sister of Mimi, the Asian bronze medallist in Fukuoka, took a convincing victory over her veteran team-mate Veerle Dejaeghere, 15:20 to 15:35, with Andrea Deelstra third for the Netherlands in 16:00.
Likewise, Jeroen D'Hoedt took his second win in the space of a week. The fourth-place finisher at the European Cross Country Championships defeated Bashir Abdi over 9km.
At the 127th edition of the English National Cross Country Championships in Nottingham, in-form Gemma Steel indicated her preparations for her London Marathon debut are going well as she regained her senior title from 2012 on Saturday (22).
The two-time European cross-country medallist covered the 8km course in 27:42 to defeat Stephanie Twell by 17 seconds.
In the men's race, Steve Vernon also regained his title, winning the 12km race in 36:23 ahead of Richard Goodman, second in 36:31.
Olympic triathlon bronze medallist Jonathan Brownlee was ninth in 37:03.
Steven Mills for the IAAF