IN YAOUNDE, CAMEROON
Kenya affirmed their prowess on the continent once again claiming both individual and team titles at the fourth Africa Cross Country Championships held on Saturday at Yaounde Golf Club, Cameroon.
Senior and junior women teams mastered the hilly and humid course, delivering all the podium places.
The junior men staged a 1-2 finish while their seniors claimed silver and bronze.
Nyahururu’s James Rungaru, who has represent Kenya twice without success, needed the last 50m to a chalk a surprise victory against Uganda’s Philip Kipgeyo in men’s 10km race as Charles Mneria from Kenya settled for bronze.
National champion Alice Aprot lived to her billing with a dominant gun-to-tape performance in women’s 10km as she led her compatriots Sheila Chepkirui and Beatrice Mutai to a podium sweep.
Isaac Kipsang and Mirriam Cherop, who were making their maiden international debut, handed Kenya victories in junior men 8km and junior women 6km respectively.
RUNGARU CONQUERS COURSE
Rungaru, 22, who finished sixth at both the 2011 World Junior Cross Country and 2015 Africa Games Half Marathon, was on top of his act this time around, winning senior men’s race in 24 minutes and 34 seconds.
A tactical Rungaru, who normally attacks from the front, opted to stay behind before bursting past Kipyego with 50m to go.
Kipyego, who had stuck with the Kenyans for most part of the race, led the pack for the better part of the last 4km. He was the first to scale the last hill measuring 300m on the course and was seemingly headed for victory with Kenyans Rungaru, Charles Mneria, Cleophas Ng’etich and Geoffrey Kimutai in hot pursuit.
Rungaru then unleashed his kick to outwit the Ugandan, who was happy to deny Kenya a podium sweep, coming in second in 26:35 as Mneria took bronze in 26:46. Ng’etich and Kimutai finished fourth (26.:52)and fifth (27:09) for a Kenyan team win.
“I know Kenyans cheering on the sidelines had butterflies in their stomach when Kipyego was in the lead but I was comfortable since I knew where to beat him.
“I opted to stay behind the pack and I am happy the tactics worked especially against the Ugandan since I could feel his breathing style and pace and knew when to take him on,” said Rung’aru, who dedicated his victory to 2008 Olympics marathon champion the late Samuel Wanjiru and the country.
It’s Wanjiru who lured Rangaru into athletics in 2010 in Nyahururu.
“I have finally won after trying twice,” said Rungaru, who now wants to qualify for the Africa Championships 10,000m and later Rio Olympics.
In a replica of the National Cross Country Championships, Aprot, who won bronze during the previous championships held in 2014 in Kampala, hit the front from the gun as she pulled the rest of the course behind her. The Africa Games 10,000m gold medallist and 5,000m bronze medallist eventually triumphed in 29:52 minutes, beating Chepkirui to second 30:44 while Mutai 31:04 took bronze in 31:08. Daisy Jepkemei (31:29) and Nancy Nzisa (31:30) settled fifth and sixth for the team title.
Kipsang won men’s junior race in 21:33 followed by Ronald Kiprotich 21:44 with Eritrean Aron Kiple going for bronze in 21:48. Anthony Kiptoo and 2014 Africa Cross silver medallist Andrew Lorot finished fourth and fifth in 21:56 and 21:59 to wrap up the team gold.
Cherop clocked 18:31 as Gloria Kite (18:39) and Wilfred Mbithe (18:40) went for silver and bronze. Lucy Cheruiyot came in fourth in 18:42 to give Kenya the team gold.
Junior men 8km: 1. Isaac Kipsang (Kenya) 21:33, 2. Ronald Kiprotich (Kenya 21:44), 3. Aron Kiple (Eritrea) 21:48, 4. Anthony Kiptoo (Kenya) 21:56,
5. Andrew Lorot (Kenya) 21:59, 6.Nickson Kiplangat (Kenya) 22:11
Senior men 10km: 1. James Rungaru (Kenya) 26:34, 2. Philip Kipyego (Uganda) 26:35, 3. Charles Mneria (Kenya) 26:46, 4. Clephas Ng’etich (Kenya) 26:52, 5. Geoffrey Kimutai (Kenya) 27:09, 6. Molla Tamire (Ethiopia) 27:13
Junior women 6km: 1. Mirriam Cherop (Kenya) 18:31, 2. Gloria Kite (Kenya) 18:39, 3. Wilfred Mbithe (Kenya) 18:40, 4. Lucy Cheruiyot (Kenya) 18:42, 5. Muliye Dekobo (Ethiopia) 18:52, 6. Tersit Desalgn (Ethiopia) 19:02
Senior women 10km: 1. Alice Aprot (Kenya) 29:52, 2. Sheila Chepkirui (Kenya) 30:44, 3. Beatrice Mutai (Kenya) 31:08, 4. Dera Diya (Ethiopia) 31:13,
4. Daisy Jepkemei (Kenya) 31:29, 5. Nancy Nzisa (Kenya) 31:30