Home ground advantage counted for so little for Uganda at the Africa Cross-country Championships yesterday.
You would actually be forgiven to think that Kenya were the hosts as they swept all the four team titles and individual gold medals on offer at Kololo Airstrip.
Uganda failed to win an individual medal although the senior men’s team secured silver while the junior women and senior women both got bronze. The scattered crowd at the Independence grounds had every reason to leave disgruntled.
Three-time World Cross-country Championships medallist Moses Kipsiro, expected to challenge for the senior men’s 12km gold, trudged home in 10th position after matching the leading pack’s pace in the opening two laps.
Moses Kibet was Uganda’s only shining light, crossing the line in 6th position in that 12km challenge. For the Ugandan spectators, Kibet’s performance was worth celebrating.
He was even handed the Ugandan flag. “The course was so flat. That’s why we totally failed to match the Kenyans’ pace. Had the course been hilly, I believe we would have done better. We did a lot of hill work in training but it didn’t help here,” Kibet said, explaining Uganda’s awful display on the sunny day.
Kenyans made a meal of the flat course, taking all the top five positions in the 12km senior men’s race with Leonard Barsoton helping himself to gold in 34:26.12. Cornelius Kipruto took sliver in 34:56.45 with Philemon Rono (35:01.88) taking the bronze. “It was a tough race especially in the opening laps. We had a good team for the podium sweep,” Barsoton noted.
Kenya’s senior women, too, read from a similar script with Faith Kipyegon (25:33.02), romping to gold ahead of three teammates.
Silver went to Janet Kisa (25:41.30) and bronze to Alice Aprot (25:46.48) with Edith Chelimo (25:33.02) finishing fourth.
“We came with a plan to take all the three event medals and did that perfectly. The course was flat and it was a bit hot but I am glad I managed to pull through,” Kipyegon said. Ninth-placed Linet Toroitich was Uganda’s best performer in that 8km race, crossing the line in 26:49.89.
In the junior men’s race where Uganda was expected to do well, Kenya still carried the day. Moses Letoyie broke away after the opening lap to power home in 22:36.80 for the gold. “I kept behind for the opening lap but was sure of winning. After taking the lead I realised no one was following. I decided to go,” Letoyie said after the race. “My focus is now making the Commonwealth Games and World Junior Championships.”
Andrew Lorot (22:50.19) took the silver but there was no clean sweep for Kenya here as Eritrean Berhane Afeweki (22:56.45) made a come-from-behind surge to snatch the bronze.
A dominant Agnes Tirop had opened the floodgates for Kenya, ruling the day’s opening race (junior women’s 6km) from start to finish. She finished in 18:50.74, beating Ethiopian Heroyi Banata Alemitu (19:55.24) to the gold.
Another Kenyan Nancy Nzisa (19:16.18) took the bronze. “I am very happy. I thank God for this victory,” Tirop said after the victory, her innocent face brightening up.
Africa cross-country results
1. Tirop Agnes Jebet (Kenya) 18:50.74
2. Banata Alemitu (Ethiopia) 19:55.24
3. Nzisa Nancy (Kenya) 19:16.18
4. R. Chepngetich (Kenya) 19:39.71
5. Lillian Rengeruk (Kenya) 19:50.74
6. Hawai Alemitu (Ethiopia) 19:55.24
10.Stella Chesang (Uganda) 20:26.82
14. Phanice Chemutai (Uganda) 20:48.94
15. P. Chekwemoi (Uganda) 20:54.38
16. Karen Chekwemoi (Uganda) 20:48.94
1.Moses Letoyie (Kenya) 22:36.80
2.Andrew Lorot (Kenya) 22:50.19
3.Berhane Afeweki (Eritrea) 22:56.45
4.John Kiprono (Kenya) 23:11.12
5.Hillary Langat (Kenya) 23:01.97
6.Emmanuel Kiprono (Kenya) 23:11.12
7. Joshua Cheptegei (Uganda) 23:18.71
13.Mande Abdallah (Uganda) 23:42.19
17.Phillip Kipyeko (Uganda) 24:02.09
19.Alex Cherop (Uganda) 24:22.27
21.Ben Simokwo (Uganda) 24:48.18
23. Felix Chemonges (Uganda) 25:09.68
1. Faith Kipyegon (Kenya) 25:33.02
2. Janet Kisa (Kenya) 25:41.30
3. Alice Aprot (Kenya) 25:46.48
9. Linet Toroitich (Uganda) 26:49.89
15. Nancy Cheptegei (Uganda) 27:56.99
16. Vanice Chemutai (Uganda) 28:13.47
17. Rebecca Cheptegei (Uganda) 28:20.76
1. Leonard Barsoton (Kenya) 34:26.12
2. Cornelius Kipruto (Kenya) 34:56.45
3. Philemon Rono (Kenya) 35:01.88
6. Moses Kibet (Uganda) 35:25.21
8. Thomas Ayeko (Uganda) 35:52.23
10. Moses Kipsiro (Uganda) 35:59.47
12. Daniel Rotich (Uganda) 36:16.39
16. Timothy Toroitich (Uganda) 36:31.87
20. Isaac Ayeko (Uganda) 36:58.04