Irene Cheptai stuns rich field to win Cross Country title

Saturday February 18 2017

Irene Cheptai of Kenya Police winning women's 10km race during the Lotto National Cross Country Championships on February 18, 2017 at Uhuru Gardens. PHOTO | AYUMBA AYODI |

Irene Cheptai of Kenya Police winning women's 10km race during the Lotto National Cross Country Championships on February 18, 2017 at Uhuru Gardens. PHOTO | AYUMBA AYODI |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By AYUMBA AYODI
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Irene Cheptai from Kenya Police is the surprise winner of this year's Lotto National Cross Country Championships women's 10km race.

Hard work and determination finally paid for Cheptai as she secured victory on her fourth attempt in 31:47.5, stunning defending champion Alice Aprot from Prisons and South Rift's 2015 National champion Faith Chepng'etich.

Cheptai finished 10th in 2013 and seventh in 2014 and 2015 before missing out in 2016.

"It's just surprising. I didn't expect to win the race with the rich field," said Cheptai. "I knew my weakness was the last 500m and had to work on my speed."

It was a thrilling three-horse battle involving Cheptai and former World Junior 3,000m champion Lilian Kasait and the 2015 National Cross champion Faith Chepng'etich, who is also the 2016 Rio Olympic Games 1,500m champion, in four kilometres. Defending champion Alice Aprot was almost seven metres from the trio.

Kasait led the field into the last 2km before Cheptai took charge to outsprinted Kasait.

"I decided to kick with 200m to go and see what would happen and it worked well after Kasait failed to react," said Cheptai from Kenya Police.

South Rift's Kasait settled second in 31:51.9 as Chepng'etich, the 2013 World Cross junior champion came in third in 32:12.9.

Aprot, who had led the first three laps, had to relinquish the title for fourth place in 32:18.8. World Cross Country Champion Agnes Tirop was placed fifth in 32:47.4 with World 3,000m steeplechase champion Hyvin Kiyeng finishing sixth in 32:52.3 to get the last place in Team Kenya women's team for the World Cross Country Championships due March 26 in Kampala.

Senior women's 10km

1. Irene Cheptai (Police) 31:47.5

2. Lilian Kasait (South Rift) 31:52.9

3. Faith Chepng'etich (South Rift) 32:12.9

4. Alice Aprot (Prisons) 32:18.8

5. Agnes Tirop (Police) 32:47.4

6. Hyvin Kiyeng (Police) 32:52.3