Yomif Kejelcha seems to have an affinity with Oregon.
In 2014, the 18-year-old Ethiopian went to Eugene and won the world junior 5000m title. Last year, he won over the same distance at the famed IAAF Diamond League meeting there and on Sunday he took the gold medal over 3000m at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland.
After the field had been towed through the first kilometre by Canada’s Mohammed Ahmed and then Kenya’s Isiah Koech in a gentle 2:52.18, the pace gradually increased.
Koech led through to 1600m before his compatriot and defending champion Caleb Ndiku briefly showed at the front. With just over five laps to go, Djibouti’s Youssouf Hiss Bachir then took his turn directing procedings, hitting the 2000m checkpoint in 5:43.33.
Bachir and Ndiku continued to control the pace at the front for the next two laps although, behind them, Kenya’s Augustine Choge was steadily moving through the field in anticipation of striking for home over the last two laps.
However, Kejelcha beat him to the punch and took first place with 400 metres to go.
As the runners went through their gears, the leading five of Kejelcha, Choge, Morocco’s Abdalaati Iguider, Ndiku, and USA’s Ryan Hill started to separate themselves from the rest of the field and passed the bell in that order.
Kejelcha hugged the curb and wisely refused to give way or allow any gap on the inside while in full flight over the final lap.
As the teenage Ethiopian came off the last bend with 50 metres to go, he was attacked by Choge and Hill, the latter having to come the long way around.
However, Kejelcha has a ferocious turn of speed in the final stages of races and managed to repel their challenges, crossing the line in 7:57.21, with Hill coming through to take the silver in 7:57.39, just edging out Choge, who was 0.04 further back.
Kejelcha’s winning time may have been the second slowest in championship history but the last kilometre took just 2:22.88.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF