Hellen Obiri in action (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Obiri defeats Kipyegon and Cherono in Machakos - cross-country round-up

Olympic 5000m silver medallist Hellen Obiri claimed her second victory of the Athletics Kenya Cross Country Series in the senior women’s 10km in Machakos on Saturday (17).

The line-up assembled for the penultimate race of the 2016-17 series was the strongest of the season but Obiri broke clear of Olympic 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon on the penultimate lap and built up a winning margin of approximately 100 metres on the last circuit.

“I am not in my best shape yet and I hope to hit the right form ahead of the World Cross Country Championships,” Obiri told reporters after the event.

Obiri stopped the clock at 33:29 with Kipyegon finishing second in 33:47 in her first race since the track season. This was also her first competitive outing at a distance longer than 8km and like Obiri, Kipyegon is aiming to make the Kenyan team for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Kampala 2017 next March.

Kipyegon, who has twice won the world junior cross country title, would have started as the arguable pre-race favourite in 2015 but she was forced to miss the biannual event staged in Guiyang due to an injury which she picked up after winning the always competitive Kenyan Trials.

Kipyegon’s older sister, Beatrice Mutai, rounded out the podium in 33:56 while former IAAF world half marathon champion Gladys Cherono made a solid return from a back injury to finish fourth in 34:24 ahead of former world junior cross country champion Pauline Korikwiang in fifth (34:31).

In the men’s senior 10km, Rio Olympian Charles Muneria took the plaudits in 29:33 ahead of Peter Emase (29:46) and Bernard Muia (29:53) while Shadrack Langat and Edna Jebitok won the men’s 8km and women’s 6km junior races.

McCormack rebounds, Kimeli extends win streak in Brussels

Fionnuala McCormack fell short in her quest to claim an unprecedented third European cross country title on a warm afternoon in Chia last weekend but the Irishwoman claimed back-to-back victories over 6km in the IRIS Cross Cup in Brussels on Sunday (18).

McCormack took the lead on the first lap and ran out a comfortable winner in 19:28 to defeat home favourite Louise Carton, who also bounced back from a disappointing showing in Chia where she stopped mid-race before dropping back to 69th. The 22-year-old clocked 19:46 for the runner-up spot, holding off two-time Olympic 1500m finalist Laura Weightman who was given the same time.

Last year’s runner-up Maureen Koster from the Netherlands missed out on a place on the podium this time, finishing fourth in 20:01.

Fresh from winning the European under-23 cross country title last weekend, Isaac Kimeli used his sprint finish once again to defeat steeplechase specialist Jeroen D’Hoedt over 9km, 26:26 to 26:28.

Souffiane Bouchiki finished third in 26:38 while 20-year-old Simon Debognies, who was also a scoring member of Belgium’s silver medal-winning team in Chia, was a distant fourth in 26:58.

Diro and Ayalew prevail in Venta de Banos

Two-time Olympic steeplechase finalist Etenesh Diro from Ethiopia forged out a narrow victory in the senior women’s 7.57km at the 37th edition of the Cross Internacional Venta de Banos on Sunday.

Diro, who also lowered her 5000m PB to 14:33.30 last summer, clocked 30:35 to defeat Ethiopian-born Trihas Gebre --who lives in Bilbao and has represented Spain since 2014-- by five seconds with veteran marathon-runner Alessandra Aguilar third in 30:50.

In the senior men’s 10.577km, Bahrain’s Aweke Ayalew became the first runner since Ethiopia’s Sileshi Sihine in 2003 to claim back-to-back titles in this race. Ayalew clocked 32:42 to defeat Kenya’s Jairus Birech (33:04) with Javier Guerra the top domestic finisher in third (33:22) ahead of European 10,000m bronze medallist Antonio Abadia (33:31).

In gruelling conditions where the athletes had to contend with ankle-deep mud at some points on the course, Olympic 3000m steeplechase finalist Yemane Haileselassie, 18, became the first Eritrean winner of the Cross Nacional Fiestas de la Virgen in Yecla since 2010 with victory in the senior men’s 10km in 30:45.

Carlos Mayo claimed back-to-back silver medals in the under-23 race in Chia last weekend and the 21-year-old defeated a strong domestic line-up for the runner-up spot, including European 5000m champion Ilias Fifa and silver medallist Adel Mechaal who finished third and fifth respectively.

Tania Carretaro won the women’s senior 8km in 28:40 ahead of Carolina Robles.

Steven Mills (with assistance from Kip Evans) for the IAAF