World U20 cross-country champion Letesenbet Gidey and national 5000m champion Getaneh Tamire Molla were among the winners of the 34th Jan Meda International Cross Country, Ethiopia’s trials for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Kampala 2017, at the Jan Meda race course in Addis Ababa on Sunday (12).
Another junior title for Gidey
When Gidey won the national junior 6km title two years ago, she was a little-known entity hoping to land a place on Ethiopia’s team for the 2015 World Cross Country Championships.
But after leading her compatriots to a sweep of the first four places in Guiyang, China, Gidey returned to the Jan Meda race course with the undisputed favourite’s tag. She did not disappoint by taking the race from the front and winning her second national junior title.
Only Zeyneh Yimer was able to stay with Gidey as she hit the front just before the first two-kilometre mark. The experienced junior edged away from Yimer in the final kilometre for a textbook front-running victory in 21:17. Yimer, although 20 seconds behind the winner, was a comfortable second ahead of Hawi Feyisa.
“I was prepared for this,” Gidey said. “It is my dream to win gold for my country on a big stage.”
Molla defends, upsets favorites to take men’s senior race
With 2011 world 10,000m champion Ibrahim Jeilan, 2011 world cross-country champion Imane Merga and 2013 world junior cross-country bronze medallist Muktar Edris in the line-up, the senior men’s race was billed as the highlight of the championships. It delivered on the promise of racing drama and ambitious front running, but the identity of the race winner was a pleasant surprise after five laps of cutthroat competition.
Getaneh Tamire Molla may have won the same title last year competing against less-known names, but the 20-year-old was expected to play second fiddle to the bigger names in this year’s running.
After a nervy start, the leading quartet of Bonsa Dida, Jemal Yimer, Olympian Abadi Hadis, and Tamire began to stretch out the field as Jeilan, Edris, and Mergia struggled to keep with the leaders.
After three laps of exchanging leads, Hadis moved marginally ahead of Tamire at the bell. Continuing his chase until the last kilometre, Tamire eventually overtook his more illustrious compatriot in the final 500 metres to take victory over the 10km course in 30:57, four seconds ahead of Hadis, with Moges Teumay coming home third to complete the medal trio.
None of the pre-race favourites were able to occupy the top four places that would guarantee selection to Ethiopia’s squad for next month’s World Cross Country Championships.
“The race was very tough,” Tamire said. “The course was curvy and the weather was hot. I was only planning to be one of the medallists. I knew I had a chance to win on the last lap because I felt very comfortable.”
Dida’s patience rewarded
In the senior women’s 10km, national 5000m champion Dera Dida continued her strong domestic form with a patient, come-from-behind victory ahead of 2013 world 10,000m bronze medallist Belaynesh Oljira and Yebrgual Melese, the pre-race favourites.
A slow start to the race saw a large group take the first two kilometres in a pedestrian pace as no one chose to take advantage by hitting the front. At about halfway, the group dwindled to a handful of runners as Melese, Oljira and Gebeyanesh Ayele exchanged the lead at the front, but closely followed by another quartet of runners including eventual race winner Dida.
After the intrigue and anticipation on the fourth lap, Oljira took the first initiative to kick at the bell. Her breakaway attempt was quickly closed down. It was Ayele who then tried to outpower her opponents with a kick of her own only to be foiled easily by the chasing pack. But when Dida broke away, neither Oljira nor Ayele were able to keep up. Dida pulled away to win in 35:28 ahead of Oljira and Ayele.
“It was very good race,” Dida said. “The last lap was fast and I had to give everything in me. There was wind holding me up a bit, but I am happy because this specific race is new for me.”
Mosisa comfortably defends junior title
Defending champion Tefera Mosisa became the event’s first back-to-back U20 champion. The 18-year old tolerantly stayed in the leading group for much of the race, only to hit the front with just 300 metres remaining. He finished the tight contest in 24:51, just two seconds ahead of world U20 5000m champion Selemon Barega with Solomon Berihun rounding out the medals in third in 24:55.
Oromia Region took the first title in the newly-introduced 8km mixed relay. In the event that attracted the most attention by the spectators at the Jan Meda race course, the athletes lived up to the occasion as the chase for faster individual times was linked to selection for the World Cross Country Championships team.
Federal Prisons team led for three of the race’s four laps, but it was the Oromiya region squad that snatched victory at the finish line.
Elshadai Negash (with assistance from Abiy Wondifraw) for the IAAF
1 Getaneh Tamire Molla 30:57
2 Abadi Hadis 31:01
3 Moges Teumay 31:12
4 Bonsa Dida 31:18
5 Jemal Yimer 31:33
6 Azmeraw Mengiste 31:34
1 Dera Dida 35:28
2 Belaynesh Oljira 35:37
3 Gebeyanesh Ayele 35:44
4 Zerfe Limenh 35:52
5 Enatnesh Almirew 35:54
6 Sintayehu Lewtegn 35:57
U20 men (8km):
1 Tefera Mosisa 24:51
2 Selemon Barega 24:53
3 Selemon Berihun 24:55
4 Betesfa Getahun 24:56
5 Amdework Walelign 24:58
6 Biyaylegn Teshager 25:07
U20 women (6km):
1 Letesenbet Gidey 21:17
2 Zeyneba Yimer 21:37
3 Hawi Feyisa 21:44
4 Wude Kefale 21:45
5 Foteyn Tesfaye 21:48
6 Brii Abera 21:49
Mixed relay (8km)
1 Oromia Region
2 Federal Prison
3 Commercial Bank of Ethiopia
4 Oromia Police
5 Amhara Region