Geoffrey Kirui, Sela Jepleting capture KDF titles

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By AYUMBA AYODI

Sela Jepleting (right) competes with Gladys Cherono (centre) and Veronica Nyaruai (left) during the Kenya Defence Force (KDF) Cross Country championship 8km senior women race at Kahawa Garrison on January 16, 2014. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |
Sela Jepleting (right) competes with Gladys Cherono (centre) and Veronica Nyaruai (left) during the Kenya Defence Force (KDF) Cross Country championship 8km senior women race at Kahawa Garrison on January 16, 2014. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |   NATION MEDIA GROUP

On-form Geoffrey Kirui from Moi Air Base (MAB) and Lanet’s Sela Jepleting on Friday stunned star-studded fields to win the men’s and women’s 35th edition of the Kenya Defence Forces Cross Country Championships at Kahawa, Nairobi.

The 23-year-old Kirui, who finished 12th at 2013 World Cross Country Championships in Poland, claimed his maiden major win, clocking 35:58.0 minutes in the men’s 12km race.

Lance Corporal Jepleting, fresh from winning the Athletics Kenya Series event in Machakos and the Shoe4Africa race, used her lanky but sprightly legs to outsprint 2013 champion Gladys Cherono from Kahawa in the last 100m to win the women’s 8km race in 26:25.4 minutes.

Civilians Nehemia Makori and Penina Wanjiru won the men’s and women’s 15km races in 51:27.7 and 1:00:20, respectively.

The men’s battle remained tight for the better part of the race before Kirui and his teammates, the 2009 champion Mark Kiptoo, defending champion Leonard Oloitiptip and Kiplimo Kimutai, broke away from the pack with two laps to go.

The foursomes exchanged the leads, with Oloitiptip ahead on the bell. Kiptoo, who is the 2014 Frankfurt Marathon champion, zoomed past Oloitiptip, only for Kirui to come from behind to prevail in the last 200m. Kiptoo settled for second in 35:59.8 as they denied Oloitiptip his third consecutive victory in 36:06.0.

“I just woke up today feeling good and I knew God had something nice for me,” said Kirui. “It was all about perseverance and staying patient considering the strong field.”

STRONG TEAM

Kirui, the 2012 World Junior 10,000m bronze medallist, believes KDF has a strong team that will be able to challenge for both individual and team titles at the nationals and the World Cross Country Championships.

The 22-year-old Jepleting, corporal Cherono and senior private Jemimah Jelagat from MAB broke from the park with 2km to go. The battle was reduced to a two-horse race between Cherono and Jepleting, who exchanged the leads in the last 800m.

It appeared that Cherono, the reigning World Half Marathon champion, was headed for victory before the 2013 Moscow World 1,500m representative Jepleting swung to the front to claim her maiden Forces’ victory.

Cherono settled for second in 26:25.7 followed by Jelagat (26:47.2) and returnee Veronica Nyaruai from Laikipia (27:05.4). Doris Chengeiywo (Embakasi) wrapped up the top five vanguard in 27:12.7.

“My dream is also to win at the nationals so that I can make it to the World Cross Country Championships,” said Jepleting.

The National Championships are due February 14 at Uhuru Gardens with the World Cross Country set for Guiyang, China, on March 28.

“I just want to succeed like my mentor Hellen Obiri,” said the much improved Jepleting.

Obiri, who was the defending champion, was knocked out in the last minute with an injury.

“I have been working hard on my finishing kick with lots of interval training in 300m, 200m and 100m sprints,” explained Jepleting.

Besides representing her unit, Cherono, 31, said she was using the event as a warm-up for speed work ahead of her marathon debut in Dubai on Friday next week.

“It was a great race but Jepleting was strong in the finishing kick,” said Cherono. “I now can say I have no fear and I am ready and ripe for marathon.”

(Source: Nation)

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