Voice of Sport

‘I’ll go for title in Kampala,’ says Barsoton; ‘It’s a good feeling beating world champ and silver medalist here [at Uhuru Gardens, Nairobi]’

In the thrilling senior men’s10km race a trio led the pack up to the final lap when Leonard Barsoton broke away in the final 200 metres to sail home in 28:56.3. Bedan Muchiri was second in 29:02.3 as he piped Geoffrey Kamworor (29:03.4) in final stretch


AFTER the end of Kenya’s championships in Lang’ata, Nairobi on Saturday, the country bubbled with confidence that they will have a winning squad at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Kampala, Uganda on March 26.

In most events on Saturday, the winner in each of four categories defied the pre-race favourites indicating the depth of talent in the perennially strong Kenya team in cross country running whose biggest anniversaries are fellow Eastern Africans Ethiopia.

Nemesis

In the blue ribbon senior men’s 10km race, the winner was Leonard Kiplimo Barsoton, who got the better of Bedan Karoki Muchiri and Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor. These two were Barsoton’s nemesis in the previous two years. Barsoton had finished second behind Muchiri in 2014 and third behind Muchiri and Kamworor in 2015. In 2016 Barsoton was third behind winner Kamworor and Muchiri.

But it was reported that Muchiri will not be making a shot at an elusive world title in Kampala and will be ceding his place to another pick. Muchiri was second to compatriot Kamworor in the world cross championships in Guiyang, China in 2015. Bronze medal winner then was Muktar Edris of Ethiopia while Barsoton finished fifth.

Second fiddle

Barsoton said of his world title prospects in Kampala: “It now gives me hope for a world title, having beaten [here at Uhuru Gardens, Lang’ata] the world champion and silver medallist. It’s a sweet victory having played second fiddle to Kamworor and Karoki three times. I thank God.”

The senior women’s 10km race was also star-studded. Alice Nawowuna Aprot, 11th Africa Games winner in 10,000m and Africa champion who placed fifth in the race at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro led the limelight, including Hyvin Jepkemoi Kiyang’ the women’s 3,000m steeplechase champion and silver medal winner in Rio and Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon the sensational 1,500m Olympic champion and twice gold medallist (junior) at previous world cross championships.

Relative unknown

But these three had to contend with and fell to Irene Chebet Cheptai previously a relative struggler Police woman who won at Uhuru Gardens in 31:47.5. Cheptai, 25, was a junior silver medallist way back at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in 2008 and went on to represent Kenya in the senior race in 2013 and 2015, only winning team medals both times. At Uhuru Gardens, Cheptai was followed home by another relatively unknown Lilian Kasait Renguruk (31.51.9). Kipyegon was third (32.12.9).

In the thrilling senior men’s race a trio, led the pack up to the final lap when Barsoton broke away in the final 200 metres to sail home in 28:56.3. Muchiri was second in 29:02.3 as he piped Kamworor (29:03.4) in final stretch.

Target

Barsoton said he has been training at his camp in Japan for the last five years adding that his constant workouts with the renowned compatriot Muchiri, also based there, has helped him grow as an athlete.
He expects stiff competition at the World Championships as he targets a podium finish in his third world cross country team and believes working as a unit will guarantee team Kenya medals in Uganda.

Good weather

In the senior women’s race it was a delight win for soft spoken Cheptai after finishing seventh in 2014 and 2015. She could only manage 10th position in her debut in 2013. “The weather [today, Saturday] was ideal for me This is what I faced during my training sessions. Not it is just a matter of duplicating my performance in the world championships [in Kampala].”

The champion steeplechaser Kiyeng’ said: “It was a good race for me. Yes, I finished sixth but my goal was just to secure the ticket and I should put a better performance in the next stage.”

Tactics

In the men’s U-20 8km race, a tactical Richard Kimunyan from Central Rift Region put on a composed sprint finish to seal first spot in 23:03.2, five metres ahead of Meshack Munguti 23:10.0 (Southern) and Wesley Ladama 23:13.2 (Nairobi) completed the podium places. Kimunyan attributed his win to proper race tactics and believed he would be the man to beat at the world championships.

“If you win here then that puts you as a top contender for the world title. I believe I am going to win in Uganda,” the confident Kimunyan said. He started running in the first year of high school at Kirorobon in Nakuru County. While in form three, Kimunyan went on to represent Kenya in the 2015 Under-18 World Championships in Cali, Colombia where he won gold in the 3, 000m steeplechase.

Kenya championships and qualifiers for World Cross Country Championships:

Men Senior (10km):

1. Leonard Kiplimo Barsoton, 28:56.3 – (Kenya Police)
2. Bedan Karoki Muchiri, 29:02.3 – (Kenya Police)
3. Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor, 29:03.4 – (Kenya Police)
4. Vincent Rono, 29:06.3 – (Nairobi)
5. Leonard Komon, 29:08.8 – (Coast)
6. Leonard Lagat, 29:13.- (South Rift)
7. Nicholas Kosimbei, 29:22.06 – (South Rift)
8. Peter Emase, 29:23.05 – (Kenya Prisons)
9. Mangata Ndiwa, 29:24.01 – (Kenya Prisons)
10. Barnabas Koskei, 29:27.01 (Coast)

U-20 (8km):

1. Richard Kimunyan, Cental – (23:3.2)
2. Meshack Munguti, Southern – (23:10.0)
3. Wesley Ledama, Nairobi – (23:13.2)
4. Edwin Kiplagat, South Rift – (23.14.5)
5. Amos Kirui, South Rift – (23:17.1)
6. Ronald Kirui, South Rift – (23:22.0)

Women Senior (10km):

1. Irene Chebet Cheptai, 31:47.5 (Kenya Police)
2. Lilian Kasait Renguruk, 31.51.9 (South Rift)
3. Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon, 32.12.9 (South Rift)
4. Alice Nawowuna Aprot, 32:18.8 (Kenya Prisons)
5. Agnes Tirop, 32.47.4 (Kenya Police)
6. Hyvin Jepkemoi Kiyeng’, 32:52.3 (Kenya Police)
7. Joan Chepkemoi, 33:02.01 (South Rift)
8. Pascalia Jepkorir, 33:06.07 (Kenya Police)
9. Nancy Nzisa, 33:09.05 (Kenya Prisons)
10. Margaret Chelimo, 33:14.07 (Nairobi)

U-20 (6km):

1. Sandrafelis Chebet (19.25.1) Nairobi
2. Cellphine Chepteek (19.46.6) Nairobi
3. Sheila Chelangat (19.49.6) South Rift
4. Emmaculate Chepkurui, (19:51.8) South Rift
5. Joyline Cherotich (19.53.8) South Rift
6. Esther Muthoni (19.56.7) Nairobi

– Additional reporting by Correspondents and Athletics Kenya