Turkey’s Yasemin Can was pushed all the way by Emelia Gorecka in the senior women’s 6km at the Great Edinburgh XCountry on Saturday (13) but held on to claim the individual plaudits and help Europe to the overall title ahead of Great Britain and the United States.
Can – who won this race 12 months ago by 21 seconds and claimed a 15-second victory to retain her European cross-country title in Samorin last month – saw her ascendency dwindle to just two seconds this year, 20:58 to 21:00, on a typically cold and blustery afternoon at Holyrood Park where the runners had to contend with heavy underfoot conditions.
Europe amassed an unassailable score of 137 points ahead of Great Britain (182) and the United States (190) across the four scoring events – the men’s and women’s U20 races and the men’s and women’s senior races – but reigning champion Leonard Korir gave the United States something to cheer for in the final race of the afternoon.
Korir outsprinted Callum Hawkins in a memorable head-to-head 12 months ago and the reigning champion produced a near identical win to take the scalp of European cross-country champion Kaan Kigen Ozbilen from Turkey in the senior men’s 8km.
Content to play the waiting game again, Korir only hit the front until the last 400 metres, pulling clear on the steep downhill section to eke out a three-second victory over Ozbilen in 24:32 with teammate Aras Kaya third in 24:39.
Norway’s Simon Halle Haugen and Kelsey Chmiel from the United States claimed victories in the U20 races while Laura Muir anchored the British team to victory in the non-scoring 4x1km mixed relay.
Obiri and Kamworor claim notable institution wins in Nairobi
World 5000m champion Hellen Obiri defeated multiple world record-holder Joyciline Jepkosgei to retain her title at the Kenya Defence Forces Cross Country Championships which was staged at the Moi Airbase in Nairobi on Friday (12).
Obiri has by far the better track credentials of the two protagonists and the reigning champion made use of that speed on the last lap of the 10km. Obiri stopped the clock at 33:33 to claim her third victory in this race since 2014 with Jepkosgei, who holds the world records on the road at this distance, finishing five seconds in arrears.
"I knew the title was mine when we went into the final two kilometres together,” Obiri told local reporters after the race. “I knew I had a good kick compared to Jepkosgei.”
Both Obiri and Jepkosgei look poised to turn their focus to different surfaces and different distances in upcoming months. Obiri has cited the IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018 as an immediate target where she will contest the 3000m while Jepkosgei will race in the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon next month ahead of the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships Valencia 2018 on 24 March.
In the men’s race, Hillary Kering claimed victory over 10km in 29:34 to win by six seconds ahead of Franklin Ngelel. Kering has never represented Kenya beyond regional level but he is aiming to make the national team for the African Cross Country Championships in Chlef, Algeria in March.
On the road to the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia where a hat-trick of titles beckons in March, Geoffrey Kamworor opened his season with his fifth victory in six years at the Kenya Police Service Cross Country Championships at the Ngong Racecourse just outside Nairobi on Saturday (13).
Kamworor still had the company of Noah Kipkemboi at the six-kilometre mark but the 25-year-old opened up a 17-second advantage on his unheralded rival in the second half of the 10km, winning in 29:11 to regain the title he won for the fourth successive time in 2016. Kamworor missed last year’s race due to illness.
The women’s race was a similarly one-way affair with Stacy Ndiwa defeating a host of more illustrious athletes to claim victory over 10km in 34:06. Ruth Chepngetich, who clocked 1:06:19 for the half marathon and 2:22:36 for the marathon last year, was a distant second in 34:25 with leading steeplechasers Beatrice Chepkoech and Hyvin Kiyeng third (34:36) and 10th (36:11) respectively.
At the Kenya Prisons Service Cross Country Championships held at the Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi on Saturday (13), world and Olympic 10,000m fourth-place finisher Alice Aprot eased to her third successive title, easily defeating world U20 steeplechase champion and record-holder Celliphine Chespol.
Aprot didn’t hit the front immediately as she often does but made a decisive move on the last lap, opening up a winning margin which extended out to beyond half a minute, stopping the clock at 33:31 ahead of Chespol (34:09) and marathon specialist Visiline Jepkesho (34:38).
Chespol still has one more season left in the U20 ranks but the 18-year-old has said she will not defend her title in the steeplechase at the IAAF World U20 Championships in Tampere, prioritising the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast in April instead.
Cornelius Kangogo claimed victory in the men’s race over 10km in 29:41 ahead of 2006 world U20 cross country champion Mangata Ndiwa (29:46) and Wilfred Kimitei (30:04).
Steven Mills (with assistance from Kip Evans) for the IAAF