World Half Marathon record holder Joyceline Jepkosgei led from gun to tape to defend her Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) Army cross country championship at the second edition held at Kahawa Garrison on Friday. Kennedy Njiru clinched the men’s title.
She clocked 31:36.4 to win the race ahead of Thika’s Irene Kamais who registered a time of 31:53. Mercy Wanjiru from Lanet Barracks completed the podium positions in a time of 32:33.5.
After the second lap, the three had pulled away from the rest of the field of 50 runners. Kamais and Wanjiru put up a spirited fight trying to beat the 24 year old Jepkosgei but she held on despite the two exchanging places as a strategy to tire her.
The final lap was her race against time as the two had slowed down unable to keep up with her stamina. Seasoned athlete Sela Jepleting missed a podium place to finish fourth in 33:01.7. The former Athletics Kenya Defence Forces (AKDF) cross country champion maintained fourth position from the second lap to cutting the tape.
“The weather was too harsh in today’s race but I am happy I held on for this win. I had a good season last year and I am trying to maintain the same form even as I look forward to the AKDF championship where I hope to defend win the title,” said Jepkosgei who had braved the scorching mid-morning sun for the win.
The Garissa based athlete says that she did not do anything out the ordinary in winning this race, maintaining that her composure was key in her win.
In the men’s race, Njiru gave his closest competitor Fredrick Moranga a run for his money as he unleashed a lethal finishing kick to clinch the prize in 27:37.1. Moranga finished second in 27:41.7 while Erick Tirop was third in 27:52.0.
Five athletes, among them the top three finishers, had broken away from the leading pack of close to 16 runners in the third lap but two more dropped to leave the three doing battle for top honours.
Tirop could not keep up with his peers and he lagged behind as Njiru and Moranga ran shoulder to shoulder in the last lap. However with one kilometer to go, the latter opened the gap with Njiru few meters behind him. 200m to the finish line Njiru, in a classic show of experience, overtook the youngster for the gong.
“This is part of my training for next year’s World Cross Country championship in Denmark where I am hoping to make my debut. I am also preparing for next season’s Diamond League, 3000m steeple chase, as I featured in just two of the legs this season,” said Njiru.
Moranga, on his part send a warning to his competitors saying that he is going to correct his mistakes and come back strong for the 10km AKDF gold.
In the 2km mixed relay Lanet’s team of Jepleting, Wanjiru, Ben Mosonik, Wesley Langat and Vincent Letting carried the day with Garissa and Kahawa coming in second and third.