By Ronnie Evans Japanese based Leonard Barsoton finally got the win that evaded him in two previous attempts as he upset a strong field to win the senior men's 10km of the AK/Lotto National Cross Country Championships held at Uhuru Gardens, Nairobi on Saturday.
Titles did not matter for Barsoton, fifth in Guiyang in 2015 as he lined up against the reigning world cross country champion Geoffrey Kamworor and 2015 world cross country silver medallist Bedan Karoki.
The trio led the pack upto the final lap when Barsoton broke away in the final 200 metres to sail home in 28:56.3.
Karoki was second in 29:02.3 as he pipped Kamworor (29:03.4) in final stretch.
It was Barsoton's third cross country championships and he was delighted to finally get the win that evaded him previously in 2013 when he finished second in the junior category and in 2015 when he finished third in the senior race.
"I am happy to win the race. It was a strong field out there and I thank God that I finally got first place. My target was to be in the top three given that I was up against Kamworor and Karoki. I started training for this race in January and I did not have enough time but I knew I had to run with a steady pace to avoid burn out," he said.
Barsoton has been training at his camp in Japan for the last five years and said his constant workouts with the renowned Karoki, also based in Japan has helped him grow as an athlete.
He expects stiff competition at the World Championships as he targets a podium finish in his third world cross country team and believes working as a unit will guarantee team Kenya medals in Uganda.
Cheptai finally grabs national title
In the senior women's 10km, season cross country runner Kenya Police's Irene Cheptai finished first in 31:47.5 ahead of South Rift duo of Lilian Kasait (31:51.9) and double world cross country junior champion Faith Chepngetich. 2016 Olympic 3000m steeplechase silver medallist Hyvin Kiyeng sealed the sixth and final slot in 32.52.3 rounding off the team slots after a thrilling race.
It was a delightful win for ty soft spoken Cheptai after finishing seventh in 2014 and 2015.
She could only manage 10th position in her debut in 2013. "The weather was ideal for me to perform well given that this is what I faced during my training sessions. It is just a matter of duplicating my performance in the world championships," Cheptai said.
"It was a good race for me. Yes I finished sixth but my goal was just to secure the ticket and I should put a better performance in the next stage," Kiyeng remarked.
Kimunyan bags junior men
In the men's U-20 8km race, a tactical Richard Kimunyan from Central Rift Region put on a composed sprint finish to seal first spot in 23:03.2, five metres ahead of Meshack Munguti 23:10.0 (Southern) and Wesley Ladama 23:13.2 (Nairobi) completed the podium places.
Kimunyan attributed his win to proper race tactics and believes he is the man to beat at the world championships.
"The race was difficult given that there were very many good athletes. I knew endurance would be crucial today and that is why I had training on endurance. I maintained the same tempo through to the final lap where I had a good final kick. If you win here then that puts you as a top contender for the world title. I believe I am going to win in Uganda," the confident Kimunyan said.
He started running in the first year of high school at Kirobon Boys in Nakuru County where he reached the national level in 2013.
While in form three, Kimunyan went on to represent Kenya in the 2015 u-18 World Championships held in Cali, Colombia where he won gold in the 3000m steeplechase.
In the women's U-20 6km race, Nairobi region and South Rift sealed all the six qualifying spots with three a piece. Sandrafelis Chebet crossed the tape in 19:25.1 ahead of compatriot Cellephine Chepteek (19.46.6) and South Rift's Sheila Chelangat (19.49.6).
Selected results (Qualifiers for World Cross Country Championships) Men Senior (10km) 1. Lenard Barsoton 28:56.3 (Kenya Police), 2. Bedan Karoki 29:02.3 (Kenya Police), 3. Geoffrey Kamworor 29:03.4 (Kenya Police), 4.Vincent Rono 29:06.3 (Nairobi), 5.Leonard Komon 29:08.8(Coast), 6.Leonard Lagat 29:13.8 (South Rift)
U-20 (8km) 1.Richard Kimunyan (23:3.2), 2. Meshack Munguti (23:10.0), 3. Wesley Ledama (23:13.2), 4.Edwin Kiplagat (23.14.5), 5.Amos Kirui (23:17.1), 6.Ronald Kirui (23:22.0)
Women Senior (10km) 1.Irene Cheptai 31:47.5 (Kenya Police), 2.Lilian Kasait 31.51.9 (South Rift), 3.Faith Chepngetich 32.12.9 (South Rift), 4.Alice Aprot 32:18.8 (Kenya Prisons), 5.Agnes Tirop 32.47.4 (Kenya Police), 6. Hyvin Kiyeng 32:52.3 (Kenya Police)
U-20 (6km) 1.Sandrafelis Chebet (19.25.1), 2.Cellphine Chepteek (19.46.6), 3.Sheila Chelangat (19.49.6), 4.Emmaculate Chepkurui (Chepkurui), 5.Joyline Cherotich (19.53.8), 6.Esther Muthoni (19.56.7)