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Barsoton Cheptai, take Kenya titles

Barsoton Cheptai, take Kenya titles

Leonard Barsoton and Irene Cheptai captured the men’s and women’s senior titles at the Kenyan Cross Country Championships in Nairobi on Saturday (18).

With their victories today at the Uhuru Gardens Grounds, the pair, along with U20 winners Richard Kimunyan Yator and Sandra Chebet, will be leading the east African powerhouse at next month's IAAF World Cross Country Championships Kampala 2017.

First national title for Barsoton

The men's senior race saw Japan-based Barsoton, the U20 silver medalist at the 2013 World Cross Country Championships, surprise the field and take his first national title in strong fashion.

The race started at a steady pace with Vincent Rono and 2013 world cross-country champion Japhet Korir exchanging the early lead. The first break came shortly after half-way with Police trio Geoffrey Kamworor, Bedan Karoki and Barsoton gradually moving to the front. Nicholas Kosimbei, the 2014 world U20 10,000m bronze medallist, made a bold move with just over two laps remaining but Barsoton and Kamworor quickly responded and broke from the field. 

With a lap to go it appeared to be down to Barsoton and world cross-country champion Kamworor – who resumed training less than two months ago – with Bedan Karoki leading the challenge. Barsoton forged on to a comfortable victory while Karoki closed quickly to overtake Kamworor at the line for second.

Behind the trio, early leader Rono finished fourth with 10km and 15km world record-holder Leonard Patrick Komon making a notable comeback to finish fifth and punch his ticket to Kampala. Newcomer Leonard Lagat from Keringet finished sixth and will represent Kenya for the first time in his career.

Cheptai overpowers loaded field

The senior races opened with a competitive women's contest. As all the favorites watched each other for the first two kilometres, African cross-country champion Alice Aprot decided to take the leader’s role and upped the pace.

A high quality group formed behind her, including Olympic 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon, 5000m specialist Cheptai, fast-rising Lilian Kasait, Police champion Caroline Chepkoech and world steeplechase champion Hyvin Kiyeng. By six kilometres the group was reduced to four with Cheptai, Kasait, Kipyegon and Aprot building a small gap.

Kasait, the 2013 world U18 3000m champion, led for most of the last two kilometres only to be outsprinted by Cheptai in the last 50 metres.

Kipyegon finished third while Aprot, world cross-country champion Agnes Tirop and Kiyeng claimed the final qualifying spots. 

Courtesy of IAAF