International road runner Simon Ndirangu and London Olympics 3,000m steeplchase runner Mercy Njoroge conquered a grassy runway at Mweiga Airstrip to emerge winners of the Laikipia Air Base (LAB) Cross-country on Wednesday.
Running under blistering morning heat and tough competition, Ndirangu, 26, kept up with the leading pack throughout the race to post a time of 32 minutes, 19.01 seconds in men’s 12km senior race.
“The race was tough since it was dominated by seasoned athletes. I am happy that I made it to the team and hope to do better,” he said after the race which was used to pick a team for the Armed Forces Championships.
About two minutes after the gun, a pack of four athletes broke off from the rest as the lead changed many times.
Kiplimo grabs the lead
In the second loop, former Kenya Defence Forces Championships 10,000m winner Kimtai Kiplimo took the lead before his training mate Leornard Oloitiptip took over, with Ndirangu and Emmanuel Koiyaki behind.
At the bell, the four were still together, forcing LAB head coach to shout ‘break up gentlemen!’ causing a light moment.
But Ndirangu pulled away with 10 metres to the tape and was closely followed by 2012 Brazil World Military Games bronze medallist Kiplimo (32:19.6). and Leonard Oloitiptip (32:20.1).
“It was a tricky race since we were four strong athletes and I did not want to break off early but my kick was good and it worked,” Ndirangu said.
The women’s 8km race was a two-horse affair as Mercy Njoroge and Winfridah Kwamboka dictated the tempo from the gun to the tape.
“The weather was good, although it was a little bit windy and hot. I am glad my competitor Kwamboka made me maintain speed all through,” said Njoroge who won in 31:10.31.
Njoroge, who finished 12th in the 2006 Fukuoka World Cross-country Championships, said she was determined to make it to the national team for the Poland World Cross-country Championships in March.
Kwamboka (31:10.31) heaped praise on Njoroge for helping her maintain speed throughout the race. Njoroge blasted off to finish strongly to secure her place in the team. After the competition, seven athletes instead of 12 made it to the LAB team to the national KDF championship slated for January 19 at Thika.
LAB’s head coach said that five men qualified and the one chance will be filled by KDF cross country champion Mark Kiptoo who did not compete since he had just landed in the country from an international assignment.
Coach Macharia hinted of a mini trial within the team to decide the four women to fill the team hinting that Veronica Nyaruai and London Olympics 1500m finalist Hellen Obiri will be among those to be registered in the team.
1. Simon Gichuki 32:191
2. Kimtai Kiplimo 32:19.6
3. Leornard Oloitiptip 32:20.1
4. Emmanuel Koiyaki 32:206
5. David Kimaiya 32:35.7
1. Mercy Njoroge 31:10.31
2. Winfred Kwamboka 31:1491
3. Divinah Chepleting 34.07.96
4. Milka Wamaitha 37:54.83
5. Agatha Wambui