Stephen Arita from Kenya Defence Forces claimed his maiden victory as Caroline Chepkoech grabbed a hat-trick at the fifth Athletics Kenya Cross Country series meeting in Machakos on Saturday.
World Youth 2,000m steeplechase silver medallist Sandra Chebet also won the junior women’s 6km race for the third time this season, with Nicholas Kosimbei atoning for defeats in two previous events after winning junior men’s 8km race.
The 27-year-old Arita, who finished seventh in Nairobi before finishing second in Embu, cashed in on the morning weather to win men’s 10km race in 32 minutes and 22.71 seconds. Yesterday’s race at the Machakos Teachers College grounds attracted a record 231 athletes.
It was a thrilling battle as Arita, Kenya Prisons’ Cleophas Ng’etich who won in Nyahururu and Embu, Nairobi winner Dominic Kiptarus (Kericho) and Geoffrey Korir engaged in an explosive battle in the last four kilometres. They were later joined by Frankline Ngelei (KDF) in the last two kilometres.
Arita stepped on the gas pedal in the final kilometre to triumph as Ngelei glided past the pack to wind up second in 32:29.03, followed by national junior cross country champion Kiptarus in 32:34.09. Korir came home fifth in 32:36.16, with Ng’etich sinking to sixth in 32:58.88.
“I wanted to break off early but I thought it would be counterproductive so I stuck with pack to wait for the ideal moment,” said Arita. “The tactic really worked when I kicked to control the race in the last three kilometres.”
Arita, who represented Kenya at the World Military Games in September, now turns his focus to the KDF Cross Country in January before national trials for the Africa Cross in February. Machakos was the first race of the season for many elite female athletes, with 2015 Diamond League Series 3,000m steeplechase winner Virginia Nyambura, 2013 World 3,000m steeplechase silver medallist Lydia Chepkirui, Commonwealth Games 3,000m steeplechase champion Purity Cherotich, Winnie Chebet and Veronica Nyaruai all making an appearance.
CHEPKOECH TOO HOT
However, it’s Chepkoech, who proved supreme once again in the field of 68 athletes. The 21-year-old followed up her success in Nairobi and Nyahururu with victory in 36:25.94.
Africa Games 5,000m champion Margret Chelimo (Kenya Police College) settled second as Embu winner Sheila Chepkirui (KDF) came third in 37:06.70. Visline Jepkesho, who finished third at the 2015 Paris Marathon, was placed fourth in 37:19.36 followed by Nancy Nzisa (Prisons) 37:27.70 and Nyambura 37:32.31.
Kosimbei, who was placed second in Embu and third in Nyahururu, tore the junior men’s field in 25:38.48, beating Africa Cross junior champion Andrew Lorot (Nairobi) 25:49.30 and Elijah Koskei (Bomet) 25:54.44.
Nairobi and Iten series winner Chebet clocked 21:24.70 to emerge victorious, beating Winfred Mbithe (Makueni) 21:55.66 and Eva Cherono (Kericho) 22:02.50. World Youth 3,000 silver medallist Emily Chebet was fourth in 22:08.29.
Summarised results: Men’s 10km: 1.Stephen Arita (KDF, 32:22.55); 2. Frankline Ngelei (KDF, 32:29.03); 3. Dominic Kiptarus (Kericho, 32:34.09); 4. Geoffrey Korir (Bomet, 32:36.16); 5. Patrick Mutunga (Machakos, 32:43.50); 6. Cleophas Ng’etich (Prisons, 32:58.88).
Women’s 10km: 1.Caroline Chepkoech (Bomet, 36:25.94); 2.Margaret Chelimo (KPC,36:46.88); 3. Sheila Chepkirui (KDF, 37:06.70); 4. Visline Jepkesho (Prisons, 37:19.36); 5. Nancy Nzisa (Prisons, 37:27.70); 6.Virginia Nyambura (Nyahururu, 37:32.31).