Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo and Kenya’s Eva Cherono took convincing victories at the 37th Cross Internacional de la Constitución in Alcobendas, Spain, on Sunday (25), the third stop of the 2018-19 IAAF Cross Country Permit series.
In doing so, Kiplimo managed a hat trick of wins over the last three weeks to remain unbeaten this campaign. As for Cherono, she was a late-hour addition to the field and comfortably prevailed over compatriot Gloria Kite.
In the men’s 10,060m race, Eritrea’s Yemane Hailesilassie set the early pace over the muddy course, closely followed by the other five Africans in contention in the guise of his training-mate Aron Kifle, the Kenyan pair of Edward Zakayo and Vincent Rono plus the Ugandan tandem of Kiplimo and Timothy Toroitich. This sextet already travelled clearly ahead of the rest of contenders before reaching the end of the opening kilometre.
The first 2300m lap was covered in 7:00 and Kiplimo had already taken command of the rhythm by then. His relentless pace soon paid dividends since only Kifle remained in contact after the fourth kilometre, the leading pair completing the second loop in 6:47. Zakayo was third nine seconds in arrears with Toroitich and Rono another two more seconds back. Spain’s Adel Mechaal travelled alone in seventh 30 seconds behind the leaders.
Kiplimo kept on pushing hard over the penultimate circuit and it was midway through that lap with the clock reading 19 minutes when Kifle began to gradually lose ground. The 18-year-old Ugandan increased his speed again with a strong 6:38 for the third lap, and had built a nine-second margin at the bell on Kifle, himself a massive 23 seconds clear of the triumvirate of Toroitich, Zakayo and Rono.
Over the closing loop the reigning world U20 cross country champion startled the large crowd that assembled along the course in this Madrid suburb with his frantic but easy run. Another 6:42 split led him to his dominant 22-second victory over Kifle. The battle for third was more than thrilling between Zakayo and Toroitich as they fiercely fought over the incredibly muddy final homestraight. Finally, the Kenyan took the better from Toroitich on the day of his 17th birthday while the Ugandan’s consecutive podium performances in Alcobendas came to an end by just one second after no fewer than five top-three berths.
“I’m very satisfied with my season’s kick-off as I have managed three great victories so far against very classy line-ups,” said Kiplimo, flashing his ever-present smile. “I now return to Uganda to keep on my daily routine although I’ll likely return to Spain in January for one or two cross country permits.”
Asked about his plans for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Aarhus 2019, Kiplimo confirmed he will be competing in the senior race despite his eligibility for the U20 race.
Cherono flies to victory
In the women’s race, the late addition of Kenya’s Eva Cherono, which was only released on Saturday, provided further interest to the 8040m event.
The race kicked-off at a moderate pace set by Kenyan Gloria Kite with Cherono and Spain’s Trihas Gebre tucked behind while Portugal’s Salome Rocha lost three seconds by the second kilometre.
Some 1000m into the race, the Ethiopian-born Gebre could not follow in the Kenyan’s footsteps and the race became a two-horse battle between Kite and Cherono who took turns with the lead. With two 2300-metre laps remaining, the Kenyans had built a six-second advantage on Gebre, herself another seven seconds ahead on Rocha.
Kite and Cherono’s relaxed faces suggested they had agreed to collaborate with the pacing duties, leaving the outcome to work itself out over the closing loop. That’s exactly what transpired as Cherono pulled away with relative ease some 1300 metres from the finish. From then on the 22-year-old Cherono increased her lead en route to the 10-second victory with Gebre, running alone for much of the race further back, completing the podium.
The winner, a creditable seventh over 5000m at last April’s Commonwealth Games, said, “The course was not easy as there were some quite muddy areas but I could win. I’ll now return to Kenya to keep on training and I hope to make the national team for the World Championships."