Mercy Cherono, the world junior 3,000m champion, stole the limelight at the Telkom ground in Nairobi on Saturday when she won the third leg of the national cross country circuit, her second victory in as many races sponsored by Kenya Commercial Bank. It was also a successful bid for Patrick Mwaka, Mary Wangare and Shadrack Koskei who all won in their specialities.
Cherono, who is also the world cross country junior women silver medallist, was a cut above the opposition as she took the lead from the gun to tape, winning in 19:46.1. This left her in a firm position to challenge for the Sh250,000 in her cadre, which is part of the Sh1 million jackpot prize set aside for the four events.
“I am keen to lift the jackpot. I missed the first leg in Machakos because I was in school, but I do not have to compete in all events, I will only run in Kisii,” said Cherono. “The course here was great, but the competition need to improve, I had a large gap and it is not good in international competition.”
Esther Chemutai emerged strongly in the final lap to take the second slot posting a time of 19:51.2 ahead of Faith Chengetich 20:10.6. Lucia Muia, sister to world junior 3,000m steeplechase champion Jonathan Muia Ndiku, was fourth in 20:24.4. Jackline Chepnegno, the bronze medallist in Amman over the same distance was a distant seventh.
“I have been down with a cold. I have not trained for a week now and I also had an ankle injury after I was spiked in Kericho,” said Chepngeno. With two wins, Cherono has amassed two points with only Chepngeno on her trail with four. The winner will be the one with the least points in the circuit. An athlete need to run at least three of the six legs and the national championship to qualify for the jackpot. The top five finishers score towards the jackpot.
In the women 8km race, it was Japan based Mary Wangare who triumphed winning in 27:16.5 ahead of Viola Chepngeno 27:18.1 and Sharon Cherop 27:43.2. Pauline Mutwaa 27:46.8, Esther Chemutai 27:50.8 and Agnes Katunge 28:24.1 finished in that order. After three races in Machakos, Kericho and Nairobi, there has been no repeat winner throwing open the battle for the jackpot.
Caleb Mwangangi, the winner in Machakos in the 8km junior men race, could only get a fourth spot in 23:35.4 in a race won by Patrick Mwaka, the third finisher in machakos. Mwaka won in 23:17.6 edging out Paul Kemboi to second in 23:29.8 while Keneth Kimutai came in third stopping the clock at 23:33.5.
In the senior men 12km race, Shadrack Koskei a veteran road race runner, had limited challenge as he seized the lead after the 8km and held on strongly for two laps to win in 35:56.9. Koskei, a member of the Armed Forces, last competed in cross country two years ago and said he is focused on winning a ticket to Bydgozyzc, Poland, for the global championship in March. Richard Kiprono was second in 35:57.3 beating Abraham Cherono 36:04.7 while Evans Kiprotich came in fourth after 36;08.3.