WRITTEN FOR THE IAAF WEBSITE
Reigning champion Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon successfully defended her junior women’s crown at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships this afternoon (March 24) in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
The 19-year-old Kenyan thus became the third woman to retain her title in the history of the event and in turn, replicated the achievements of her fellow countrywoman Viola Kibiwot, the 2001 and 2002 winner.
A now biannual event, the illustrious race took place on the same Myslecinek Park course as the 2010 Championships and enjoyed a total of 88 competing athletes from 22 countries.
Contesting three laps over a 6km snow-covered course, Kipyegon initially held back from the gun, sitting in around fifth place behind her teammate 17-year-old Agnes Chebet Tirop and Ethiopia’s
Ruti Aga, the World junior 5,000m silver medallist at the fore of the field.
Striding out over an undulating route with a few patches of bare grass in below-freezing temperatures, Kipyegon - the World junior 1500m champion – joined Tirop at the front of the leading pack at around the four minute mark.
Negotiating several rhythm-sapping mounds and a steep incline towards the end of each lap, the pair ran stride for stride and were joined by 17-year-old Ethiopian Alemitu Heroye at eight minutes in.
A further kilometre in, the trio pulled clear from the rest of the pack and a few minutes later, the Kenyan duo created daylight ahead of their East-African rival, with Tirop – the world junior 5,000m bronze medallist trying to inch ahead.
With a half a mile remaining, Ethiopian trials winner Heroye rejoined the pair only for them to pull clear up the long uphill stretch and then on the decline, Kipyegon showed an impressive change of pace to sprint away in the final 300m for victory.
Clocking 17:51, the winner finished marginally ahead of her compatriot, with Tirop being awarded the same time for silver as Heroye crossed the line six seconds adrift (17:57) to take the bronze.
Further back, Kenya’s Caroline Chepkoech Kipkirui finished fourth (18:09) with Aga in fifth (18:18).
World junior 5,000m champion Buze Diriba of Ethiopia placed eighth while the honour of finishing the top non-African and indeed the first European athlete went to Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s World junior 3,000m bronze medallist Emelia Gorecka, who took 16th position in 19:19.
In the team stakes, Kenya comfortably claimed the spoils with 14 points to Ethiopia’s 23. Lead by Kipyegon and Tirop, the winning squad could boast five members in the top ten, with their sixth athlete in 11th position.
Taking the bronze medals, Great Britain and Northern Ireland captured their first ever piece of team silverware in the event with 81 points and four runners inside the top 30, lead by European cross country runner-up Gorecka.
Nicola Bamford for the IAAF