Joyciline Jepkosgei lived up to her top billing at the Kenya Army Cross Country Championships as she retained her title in scorching heat at Kahawa Garrison in Nairobi on Friday.
Kennedy Njiru dethroned Eric Kiptanui in the men’s category.
Jepkosgei led the women’s 10 kilometres race from gun to tape. She had opened a narrow gap in front at the end of the first lap, but had Irene Kamais for company shoulder-to-shoulder in the next three laps, before she broke away just after completing her fourth lap and then, widened the gap and won in 31 minutes, 36.4 seconds.
The 24-year-old, who alternates her training between Ngong and Iten, boasts of world records in 10km, 15km, 20km and 21km. She went into Friday’s contest as the pre-race favourite and did not disappoint.
“It feels good to emerge victorious and I thank God for it. The race was good, but the weather conditions were tough because of the heat. The course was good. I trained well for this race and I was confident of winning the title ahead of the race.
“I was using this race for speed work as I hope to switch from Half Marathon to full Marathon next month,” said Jepkosgei, who bagged the Family Bank Half Marathon in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County last month.
Kamais from Thika finished in second place almost 100 metres back in 31 minutes, 53.seconds, while Mercy Wanjiru of Lanet settled for third (32:33:05).
Kamais admitted that she could not match Jepkosgei in speed.
“I could not cope with her speed, but I’m happy to finish in second place,” said Kamais, who was second in 21km race at the Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon, last month.
The men’s 10km race was much tighter than the women’s until the second-last lap, when Lanet’s Njiru showed his might in the last 400 metres as he won in 27 minutes, 37.1 seconds, about three seconds faster than Fredrick Moranga of Isiolo (27:41.7).
Erick Tirop from Thika wrapped up the podium finish (27:52.0). Njiru, who won the 3,000 metres steeplechase crown at the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) Athletics Championships in June this year, echoed Jepkosgei’s sentiments before adding, “I’m ready for the World Cross Country championships.”
The 43rd edition of the World Cross Country championships will be held on March 30, 2019 in Aarhus, Denmark.
Moranga, too, admitted the conditions were tough because of the baking heat.
Collins Koros was the best placed runner from Kahawa Garrison as he came home in fourth position in the men’s category. Koros noted he had been preparing hard for the Cross Country after switching from 1,500 metres last year.
“The race was very competitive and I’m happy to finish fourth,” he added. Renowned coach Julius Kirwa said the championship gave the Kenya Army a good platform to gauge its strength ahead of the KDF Cross Country Championships slated for January 25, 2019 at the same venue.
The KDF Cross Country Championships will bring together the Kenya Army, Kenya Navy and Kenya Air Force. It will be used to select the KDF team for the National Cross Country Championships-cum-Trials for World Cross Country Championships, which Eldoret Sports Club will host on February 23, 2019.
“As you can see, the competition here is very stiff. It gives the teams a good chance to know the strength of their athletes and improve on their weaknesses in readiness for the KDF championships,” said the long-time national athletics coach, after witnessing the 10km races.
(Top-10): Women 10km race – Joyciline Jepkosgei (Garisa) 31:36.4, Irene Kamais (Thika) 31:53.0, Mercy Wanjiru (Lanet) 32:33.05, Sela Jepteling’ (Lanet) 33:01.7, Gladys Chamweno (Thika) 33:09.2, Doris Changeiwo (Embakasi) 33:21.2, Penina Kandie (Thika) 33:35.3, Beatrice Cherop (Isiolo) 33:48.9, Naomi Chepkemoi (Kahawa) 34:01.6, Gladys Kimaina (Kahawa) 34:01.9
Men 10km race – Kennedy Njiru (Lanet) 27:37.1, Fredrick Moranga (Isiolo) 27.41.7, Erick Tirop (Thika) 27:52.0, Collins Koros (Kahawa) 27:53.4, Kibiwot Kandie (Embakasi) 28:08.6, Vincent Mutai (Garisa) 28:18.0, Wilson Maraba (Isiolo) 28:20.0, Alfred Kimani (Gilgil) 28:20.8, Wilson Kibogo (Gilgil) 28:21.2, Simon Njuguna (Lanet) 28:22.6.