(IAAF) Defending world U20 cross country champion Letesenbet Gidey and national 5000m champion Getaneh Tamire Molla were among the winners of the 34th Jan Meda International Cross Country, Ethiopia’s trials for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Kampala 2017, at the Jan Meda race course in Addis Ababa on Sunday (12).
When Gidey won the national junior 6km title two years ago, she was a little known entity hoping to land a place on Ethiopia’s team for the 2015 World Cross Country Championships.
But after leading her compatriots to a sweep of the first four places in Guiyang, China, Gidey returned to the Jan Meda race course with the undisputed favourite’s tag. She did not disappoint by taking the race from the front and winning her second national junior title.
Only Zeyneh Yimer was able to stay with Gidey as she hit the front just before the first two-kilometre mark. The experienced junior edged away from Yimer in the final kilometre for a textbook front running victory in 21:16.53. Yimer, although twenty seconds behind the winner, was a comfortable second ahead of Hawi Feyisa.
“I was prepared for this,” Gidey said. “It is my dream to win gold for my country on a big stage.”
With former world 10,000m champion Ibrahim Jeilan, former world cross country champion Imane Merga, and the 2013 world junior cross country bronze medallist Muktar Edris in the line-up, the senior men’s race was billed as the highlight of the championships. It delivered on the promise of racing drama and ambitious front running, but the identity of the race winner was a pleasant surprise after five laps of cutthroat competition.
Getaneh Molla may have won the same title last year competing against less-known names, but the 20-year-old was expected to play fiddle to the bigger names in this year’s running.
After a nervy start, the leading quartet of Bonsa Dida, Jemal Yimer, Olympian Abadi Hadis, and Molla began to stretch out the field as Jeilan, Edris, and Mergia struggled to keep with the leaders.
After three laps of exchanging leads, Hadis moved marginally ahead of Molla at the bell. Continuing his chase until the last kilometre, Molla eventually overtook his more illustrious compatriot in the final 500m to take victory over the 10-kilometre course in 30:56.68, four seconds ahead of Hadis, with Moges Teumay coming home third to complete the medal trio.
None of the pre-race favourites were able to occupy the top four places that would guarantee selection to Ethiopia’s squad for next month’s world championships.
“The race was very tough,” Molla said. “The course was curvy and the weather was hot. I was only planning to be one the medallists. I knew I had a chance to win in the last lap because I felt very comfortable.”
In the senior women’s 10km, national 5000m champion Dera Dida continued her strong domestic form with a patient, come-from-behind victory ahead of 2012 Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist Belaynesh Oljira and Yebrgual Melese, the pre-race favourites.
A slow start to the race saw a large group take the first two kilometre in a pedestrian pace as no on chose to take advantage by hitting the front. Around halfway, the group dwindled to about a handful of runners as Melese, Oljira, and Gebeyanesh Ayele exchanged the lead at the front, but closely followed by another quartet of runners including eventual race winner Dida.
After the intrigue and anticipation in the fourth lap, Oljira took the first initiative to kick at the bell. Her breakaway attempt was quickly closed down. It was Ayele who then tried to outpower her opponents with a kick of her own only to be foiled easily by the chasing pack. But when Dida broke away, neither Oljira nor Ayele was able to keep up. Dida pulled away to win in 35:27.74 ahead of Oljira and Ayele.
“It was very good race,” Dida said. “The last lap was fast and I had to give everything in me. There was wind holding me up a bit, but I am happy because this specific race is new for me.”
Defending champion Tefera Mosisa became the event’s first back-to-back U20 champion. The 18-year old tolerantly stayed in the leading group for much of the race, only to hit the front with just 300 metres remaining. He finished the tight contest in 24:50.26, just two seconds ahead of Solomon Barega (24:52.24) with Solomon Berihun (24:54.28) rounding out the medals in third.
Oromia Region took the first title in the newly-introduced 8km Mixed Relay. In the event that attracted the most attention by the spectators at the Jan Meda race course, the athletes lived up to the occasion as the chase for faster individual times was linked to selection for the world championships team.
Federal Prisons team was leading for three of the race’s four laps, but it was the Oromiya region squad that snatched victory at the finish line.
Elshadai Negash (with the assistance of Abiy Wondifraw) for the IAAF