A Fantastic Performance by Kenya's Cross Country Team in Kampala, by Justin Lagat
With other great athletic powerhouses like Ethiopia, Eritrea and Uganda present at the African Cross Country Championships in Kampala, it was just amazing that Kenya was able to win all the eight, individual as well as team, gold medals that were on offer, and that the nation's national anthem was the only one played during the event.
The senior men's 12 kilometer event saw Kenyans take the first five positions, led by Leornard Barsoton, who was the junior silver medalist at the IAAF world cross country championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland last year. To a small village of Eisero, Nandi North District of Kenya, it was the first ever major gold medal to land there.
We actually come from the same village with Barsoton and in the next few days will be very eager to know if there will be a village feast to celebrate this medal, of which I probably will do my best to be there, including gate-crashing! Edwin Koech, who participated in the 800m at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and finished 6th at the finals had been enjoying the status of being the most successful athlete in our village for long, Barsoton is now taking over.
"My next target is the Glasgow Commonwealth Games," Barsoton said after winning the gold medal in Kampala.
The other Kenyans who trailed Barsoton in this event were; Cornelious Kangogo, Philemon Rono, Solomon Kirwa and Philip Kiprono Langat, in second, third, fourth and fifth positions respectively. Moses Kibet of Uganda followed in sixth position. Coincidentally, almost at the same time, Bedan Karoki who had won at the Kenyan national trials and opted out of the team was also winning the Lisbon half marathon in Portugal.
Faith Chepng'etich, who was also like Barsoton just moved up to the senior category after winning the junior gold medal in Bydgoszcz last year, won the senior women's race. Other Kenyans, Janet Kisa, Alice Aprot and Edith Chelimo followed respectively to take the first four positions and consequently claiming the team title as well. Alemu Tadelech Bekele and Yeshaneh Ababel, both of Ethiopia, followed to claim the 5thand 6th positions.
Being a 1500m specialist, Faith Chepng'etich has come to trust her finishing skills and just like she did during the Kenyan trials, was able to comfortably open a gap in the final stages of the race to win it comfortably. It will be interesting to watch her race in the 1500m, now that the track season has finally kicked off.
Moses Mukono led Kenyans to a team title while at the same time defending his individual title in the junior men's race. Andrew Lorot was second. One Eritrean, Afewerki Berhane came in third position, preventing Kenyans from taking all the top five positions. Other Kenyans, John Kiprono Langat, Hillary Langat Kipkembio and Emmanuel Kiprono Bett followed in that order.
Kenya's Agnes Jebet Tirop won the gold medal in the junior women race. Alemitu Heroye of Ethiopia won silver while another Kenyan, Nancy Nzisa took the bronze medal. Two other Kenyans, Rosefine Chepng'etich and Lilian Kasait followed in 4th and 5th positions before another Ethiopian, Alemitu Hawi came in to take the 6th position.
Agnes Jebet Tirop, who was second to Faith Chepng'etich at the 2013 world cross country junior race in Bydgoszcz and has continued to dominate many other cross country races in Kenya since then, did not seem to be facing any strong competition during the race as he comfortably led in the last stages.
Out of all the twelve individual medals that were on offer at the championships, Kenyans won ten of them. Of the remaining two, one silver went to Ethiopia's Alemitu Heroye in the junior women's race while the other medal, a bronze, went to Eritrea's Afewerki Berhane in the junior men.
It was definitely, the most impressive athletic outing Kenya has ever had in recent times.