The 2018 African Cross Country Championships happened last weekend, March 17-18. Here is the our story from Justin Lagat.
The wet and muddy course in Chlef, Algeria could not stop the Kenyans from shining at the African Cross Country Championships
The Cross country event is one that has been dominated by runners from Africa in recent years, especially by the Eastern Africans from Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda. From the 2009 statistics, the top 25 runners in the senior men’s race at the IAAF world championships were all from Africa while the top 12 in the women’s senior race were Africans as well.
So, it won’t be far-fetched to say that the leading packs in the senior men and women races at the just concluded African cross country championships in Algeria would have been almost the same if it were a world cross country event. Those who emerged as the medalists here are most likely to be the same ones that will emerge at the world cross country championships next year.
With the mud, the logs on the course and some hilly sections; the course in Chlef was hard, but one good thing it was hard for everyone. Both the men and women races were exciting up to the end with fierce competition for the individual titles among the Eastern African runners.
Thomas Ayego reminded fans of last year’s senior race at the world cross country championships in Kampala. Like his countryman, Joshua Cheptegei, he also took to the front with about two kilometers to go and left a pack of four that had Julius Kogo, Alfred Barckach and Enyew Mekonnen following him in a single file. He did succeed in dropping off the Ethiopian, but two Kenyans managed to hang just behind him. With two hundred meters to go, the three athletes engaged in a finishing kick and Ayego could not hold his strength up to the finish line as Barckach overtook him to go for the win before Kogo just edged him at the line to take the silver medal. The Ugandan got a bronze medal for his effort.
There was some drama in the women’s senior race when Celiphine Chespol miscounted the laps, took off from the rest of the field to cross the finish line in celebration before she was redirected again to the course for another 2km lap. However, she had already created a big gap from the rest. Her team mate, Margaret Chelimo slowly closed the gap, but with a few hundred meters to go, Chespol seemed to have recovered once more and started to stretch her lead again before finally crossing the line as the winner. Margaret Chelimo came in for second while Yeshi Kalayu of Ethiopia took third.
When the Ethiopian runners, led by Girmawit Gebru took the first two positions in the junior women’s race leaving the third place for a Kenyan, Kenyans answered in a similar version as Ronex Kipruto led another Kenyan in winning the junior title and left the third place for an Ethiopian as well.