After 30 years, North Rift race still going strong
Athletes used the race to prepare for local and international competitions.
Eldoret’s oldest race, Discovery Kenya cross country, yesterday lived up to its billing, delivering a splendid display at one of the town’s iconic cross country venues – the Eldoret Sports Club.
It was the 30th edition of the race, which has always been staged in the North Rift town.
Robert Kiprop, the All-Africa Games 5000m champion and little-known Daisy Cherotich made huge sprints to outshine world class athletes who were kicking off the 2021 season in the senior categories.
The duo braved high temperatures to storm to convincing victories in the flat, but challenging course.
The blistering race saw 10km road race world record holder Rhonex Kipruto and former Beijing Marathon winner Valary Aiyabei settle on fifth places in the senior men and women races respectively.
With a barrier made of a heap of soil, the Eldoret Sports Club course, which hosted the 2019 national cross country championships, proved somewhat tough.
Kiprop commanded the lead after the sixth kilometre as Rhonex, last year’s winner Nicholas Kimeli, Titus Kiprotich, Gideon Rono and Emmanuel Rutto chased in the intense chase for the title in the race that has become a launch pad for several world beaters.
Rhonex, Kimeli and Kiprop train under renowned Iten-based coach Brother Colm O’Connell, who followed the race from the sidelines.
Kiprop, who was competing for the first time this season, cut the tape in 30:17.8 ahead of Kimeli (30:20.8), who paced Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei to a world 10,000m world record last year. Gideon Rono closed the podium in 30:25.3.
Titus Kiprotich, Rhonex Kipruto and Emmanuel Rutto finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.
Kiprop said winning the race wasn’t easy because he expected strong challenge from Rhonex, the world Under-20 10,000m champion, former 10,000m world champion Rodgers Kwemoi and Kimeli.
“It was not easy because every participant was prepared to win this race. It is the first competitive race this year and I am glad I won,” Kiprop said after the win.
“I thank my coach Brother Colm for preparing us well for the race. I worked with Rodgers (Kwemoi) and all went well despite the fact that he ran out of gas.”
Kiprop said he hopes to make the 5000m Kenyan team to the Tokyo Olympic Games.
“I aspire to face-off with our Ethiopian counterparts in 5000m in the Olympics,” he said.
Little-known Cherotich from Kapsabet, Nandi County out-sprinted big guns including Valary Aiyabe, former world cross country bronze medallist Lilian Rengeruk and Eva Cherono, who represented Kenya at the 2019 World championships in Aarhus, Denmark, to run away with the senior women title.
Cherotich, who stunningly opened a wide lead in the race, won in 33:53.6.