Kenyan runners Nicholas Kimeli and Edinah Jebitok claimed the win at the 76th edition of the Cross Internacional Juan Muguerza in Elgoibar, the ninth leg of the World Athletics Cross Country Tour Gold, held on a rainy day.
The women’s race set off at a conservative pace. World Junior 5000m bronze medallist Prisca Chesang took the lead in the early stages of the race, closely followed by world under 20 champion Beatrice Chebet, Edinah Jebitok and Senbere Teferi.
Teferi fell at a muddy downhill section and lost the contact with the leading pack. Jebitok increased her pace building a two-second gap over Chebet and Chesang.
Jebitok produced her decisive surge and extended her lead on Chebet in the final lap and crossed the finish-line in 26:03 with a gap of 15 seconds over her Kenyan rival. Chesang finished third in 26:33 beating Teferi by 11 seconds. Ethiopian 5000m runner Fantaye Belayneh rounded out the top five in 27:03.
Edinah Jebitok: “Conditions were tough, but I can’t be more satisfied with my victory. I already won in Venta de Banos and finished second in Madrid San Silvestre Vallecana in 30’44. I am extremely happy with my performances this season.”
World 3000m steeplechase record holder Beatrice Chepkoech finished a distant eighth in 27:39. Kate Holt from Great Britain was the first European runner in ninth place in 28:16.
European Indoor 3000m bronze medallist Adel Mechaal took the early lead in the men’s 10.8 km race, closely followed by Uganda’s Rodgers Kibet, this week’s Campaccio winner Addisu Yihune from Ethiopia and Nicholas Kimeli, who finished fourth in the 5000 metres at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Kibet went to the front after the second km and started to push the pace. Only Yihune, Kimeli, Getnet Wale and Amos Serem were able to keep up the pace with Kibet.
Serem and Wale lost the ground and the race turned into a three-men battle between Kibet, Yihune and Kimeli. Yihune built a two-second gap on Kimeli over the toughest section of the course, but Kimeli caught up with his Ethiopian rival. Kimeli unleashed his kick in the final 200 metres to cross the finish-line in 33:47 beating Yihune by six seconds. Kibet finished third in 34:05. Mechaal held off Wale in a close sprint for fourth place with the same time of 34:49.
Kimeli finished fourth in the 5000 metres at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 12:59.17. The Kenyan 23-year-old athlete improved his PB to 12:51.78 in Monaco in 2020.
Nicholas Kimeli: “Today I have run one of my hardest ever races because of the mud and the high-calibre field. At the Tokyo Olympic Games I narrowly missed a medal but I am determined to reach the podium at either the World Championships in Eugene or the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, I now go back to Kenya to continue my training for the Diamond League meetings next summer”.