Kiplimo, Chebet reign supreme

Rachel Chebet Zena smiles after winning the senior woemn race in 29 minutes. PHOTO/GEORGE KATONGOLE 

What you need to know:

In 2019, Kiplimo edged his counterpart Cheptegei for the National Cross Country Championship title, five years later, he breezed to the finishing line alone after a meticulously calculated final kick in the last lap.

Kiplimo announced his arrival to the big stage at the 2017 World Cross Country Championships where paradoxically Joshua Cheptegei was outshone as he [Kiplimo] won the gold in the 8km juniors race in a time of 22:40.

In 2019, Kiplimo edged his counterpart Cheptegei for the National Cross Country Championship title, five years later, he breezed to the finishing line alone after a meticulously calculated final kick in the last lap.

Kiplimo, who was a star attraction as a mammoth crowd descended to the Tororo Golf Club to watch the season-opening event on the athletics calendar, he was going to be challenged but had no equals.

Obviously, Kiplimo didn't have to prove anything to anyone as the Shs500,000 (about$150) cash prize is pocket change for a man who is the proud record holder of the half marathon world record.

"I actually came to build my speed," said Kiplimo, the defending world champion, after the race.

The event was being used to select national teams to the World Cross Country Championship to be held in Belgrade, Serbia, on March 30.

"About the World Cross Country, I will be confirming my attendance in the next few days. Right now I am going to rest and then do my training," he said.

Right from the start, the race was congested with the leading pack managing to steer clear in the third lap with four men giving Kiplimo company. Halfway into the last lap, he descended with great speed that with about 500 metres to go, he was all alone in front. But he was generous in praise of the challengers.

"I think it was a tough race from the start to finish. It was hard because the boys are coming seriously and again it was a little bit hot," said Kiplimo whose race started at 12:51pm and ended at 1:20pm under humid conditions.

Chebet comes of age

Rachael Chebet Zena of Uganda Prisons was brimming with pride when she won the Senior Women race in a time of 29:03.8. Still grieving the loss of her mother in mid-week on Wednesday morning, Chebet recovered from a car accident that made her miss the event last year. Yet in 2019, she missed the cut after finishing fourth.

"I am very happy because I have made Team Uganda. I was prepared for this National Cross Country to make it to the World Cross. My main target now is to work hard and pray to God to give me good health and strength in my training," Chebet said.

The women’s race was incredibly fast given the fact that all of the top four finishers; Stella Chesang, Prisca Chesang, Annet Chelangat and Doreen Chesang, have graduated to the marathon.

Chhebet's winning time was about four minutes faster than Chesang's 33:57 and still better than the men's winning time of 29:35.

Variety race

The well-attended event also had competitors in the U12 and U15 categories as well as the masters’ event that attracted former Olympian 2012 Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich.

The best performers from the U12, U15 and U18 categories will represent Uganda at the ISF World School Cross Country Championship between May 10-14 at Ngong Race Course in Nairobi, Kenya.

Dolphine Chelimo, a Senior Four student of Chemwania High School in Kween District, who won the Junior men’s race said he prepared for the race after winning himself a ticket to the Africa and World Cross Country events. The African event is slated for February 25 in Tunisia.

“I was mentally strong and physically fit to win this race. When I was running, I had that intention of making it to Team Uganda and it helped me a lot in motivating me,” said Chelimo describing the win as a miracle.

All top three performers were awarded running shoes and other attire by Lactic Sports, a sports apparel shop run by former sprinter, Ali Ngaimoko.

National Cross Country

Selected results

U12 girls - 1Km

Shirah Chemutai (Kapchorwa) - 3:12.6

Esther Chemutai (Kween) -  3:13.6

Oliver Chebet (Kween) - 3:14.2

Under 12 Boys – 1km

Caleb Kibet (Bukwo) - 2:57.1

Sande Caleb (Kampala) - 2:57.8

Laput Kizito (Nakipiripirit) - 2:59.7

U-15 girls - 3Km

Faustino Cheltoris (Kween) - 10:06.3

Mercy Chemusto (Kween) - 10:08.83

Risper Chekwemboi (Kween) - 11.15.2

U-15 boys - 3Km

Matthew Kiplagat (Kapchorwa) - 9:10.6

Lucius Chemumunumwa (Kween) - 9:11.23

Kenneth Bikele (Kween) - 9:12.5

Junior women - 6Km

Kezia Chebet(Jocdef) - 20:22.6

Nowel Cheruto (Prisons) - 20:25.6

Isiala Chebet (Police) - 20:29.0

Junior men - 8Km

Dolphine Chelimo (Prisons) - 23.38.2

Samuel Cherop Simba (UWA) - 23:38.6

Hosea Chemutai (Prions) - 23:40.5

Senior men - 10Km

Jacob Kiplimo (UWA) - 29:03.8

Dan Kibet (Prisons) - 29:11.8

Hosea Kiplangat (Prisons) - 29:14.2

Senior women - 10Km

Rachael Chebet Zena (Prisons) - 32:59.9

Joy Cheptoyek (Arua) - 33:16.7

Loise Chekwemoi (UWA) - 33:52.0