Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo and Ethiopia’s Senberi Teferi were victorious at the 15th ‘Cross Internacional de Atapuerca’, the opening race of the 2018-19 IAAF Cross Country Permit series held in windy conditions on Sunday (11) in Burgos, Spain.
In doing so, the Ethiopian ace completed a hat trick of wins in Atapuerca while the youngster Kiplimo, who will turn 18 on Wednesday, showed stellar form to destroy the classy field assembled although Ethiopia’s Getaneh Molla couldn’t return to defend his title because of visa problems.
The men’s 9km race opened at a moderate pace led by Kenya’s Vincent Rono, who was a creditable seventh at last year’s World Cross Country Championships in Kampala, but 15 athletes still formed the lead pack 3000 metres into the race.
The first serious movement came with the clock reading 10 minutes when Kiplimo took command of the race, setting a much brisker rhythm to whittle down the lead group to eight after a 5:44 1.95km loop. Closest to the Ugandan was Eritrea’s reigning world half marathon bronze medallist Aron Kifle, who was wearing a blue hairband, Uganda’s Timothy Toroitich and Bahrain’s Aweke Ayelew, the 2016 winner. Kenya’s reigning world U20 5000m champion Edward Zakayo, the Ethiopian tandem of Muktar Edris and Abadi Hadis plus Bahrain’s Birhanu Balew completed the head pack.
After the 5:37 second circuit, Kifle took charge of the pace for some 1000m at halfway but he was overtaken by Kiplimo who injected an ever faster rhythm. Only Kifle could follow the 2:46 kilometre pace.
By the bell, Kiplimo and Kifle had a 20-metre advantage over the triumvirate formed by Ayalew, Zakayo and Hadis.
The key moment came with 1500m remaining when Kiplimo pushed hard and broke away easily from Kifle to become the first Ugandan to succeed in Atapuerca. At the tape, he built a 13-second advantage over Kifle thanks to an impressive 5:23 closing loop. The minor spot on the podium was taken by the promising Zakayo, still 16, after out-dueling Hadis in a fierce sprint finish.
Britain’s Andy Vernon was the first European home in 12th, just one place ahead of Spain’s Toni Abadía, while ‘Mr Atapuerca’ Imane Merga was never a factor, finishing 17th 1:20 in arrears.
“Today’s was a very important win for me, my first IAAF permit victory after several second places,” said Kiplimo, the reigning world junior 10,000m silver medallist. “I came here very well prepared and I’m very satisfied because I could hold off the challenge of all my rivals.”
Teferi strikes again
The women’s 8km event, which preceded the men’s race, kicked off conservatively as the opening two kilometres were covered in a comfortable 6:58 with no fewer than nine women at the front.
It was the Kenyan pair of top steeplechaser Norah Tanui and Gloria Kite, a 19-year-old with 8:39:07 3000m credentials, who made most of the early pace setting while the main favourites, Teferi and Kenya’s Margaret Chelimo, travelled comfortably in the middle of the group.
The first major casualty was Swede Meraf Batha, the silver medallist at last year’s European Cross Country Championships, who could not live with the increasingly faster pace (6:40 and 6:28 loops) dictated by the Kenyans.
Kite and Tanui’s relentless pace left her compatriot Eva Cherono and Ethiopia’s Belaynesh Oljira way back just before the bell with just Kite, Tanui, Chelimo and Teferi left fighting for the win.
The Ethiopian moved to the front midway through the closing lap and Kite soon dropped from the main group, leaving Teferi, Tanui and Chelimo. Although the latter made a brave try to break away from inside the final kilometre, Teferi ran comfortably at her shoulder before unleashing a powerful final kick to romp home victorious for the third time in a row.
The Kenyan had to settle for the runner-up place two seconds adrift --as was the case last year-- with Tanui taking third to complete a quality podium.
“I would say today’s has been my most difficult victory here because of the strong wind and the artificial barriers,” the 23-year-old said.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF
1 Jacob Kiplimo (UGA) 25:10
2 Aron Kifle (ERI) 25:23
3 Edward Zakayo (KEN) 25:25
4 Abadi Hadis (ETH) 25:26
5 Aweke Ayalew (BRN) 25:33
6 Timothy Toroitich (UGA) 25:44
7 Muktar Edris (ETH) 25:47
8 Birhanu Balew (BRN) 26:00
9 Teklemariam Medhin (ERI) 26:01
10 Vincent Rono (KEN) 26:12
1 Senbere Teferi (ETH) 25:51
2 Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi (KEN) 25:53
3 Norah Tanui (KEN) 25:55
4 Gloria Kite (KEN) 25:59
5 Eva Cherono (KEN) 26:11
6 Belaynesh Oljira (ETH) 26:13
7 Meraf Bahta (SWE) 26:35
8 Trihas Gebre (ESP) 26:36
9 Charlotte Arter (GBR) 26:47
10 Carla Salome Rocha (POR) 27:09