World XC Men — Cheptegei Wins Rematch

Joshua Cheptegei turned the tables on favored 2-time defender Geoffrey Kamworor. (MARK SHEARMAN)

AARHUS, DENMARK, March 30—Two years ago at the World XC Championships in Kampala, Uganda, the host nation’s Joshua Cheptegei had built a huge lead over defending champion Geoffrey Kamworor entering the final lap of the men’s race. Cheptegei struggled home over the final 2 kilometers in front of a huge hometown crowd to finish 30th, while Kamworor repeated as gold medalist.

Fast forward 2 years to Aarhus, with the race billed as a rematch between Cheptegei and Kamworor. Since the ’17 race, Kamworor had won his third consecutive World Half-Marathon title with an eye popping 13:01 split between 15K and 20K. The Kenyan star hoped to add a third harrier title to give himself the double triple.

Cheptegei had also been busy since Kampala, earning track 10K silver at the ’17 World Championships, scoring a 5/10 double at the ’18 Commonwealth Games, and setting a 41:05 world best for 15K for good measure. And just to make things interesting, Cheptegei’s countryman Jacob Kiplimo gave up the rare opportunity to defend his dominating world Junior title to join the Senior race in Denmark. The “10K” course was actually 10,240m, featuring 1 lap of 2100m, 3 laps of 2000m and 1 lap of 2140m.

Unsurprisingly, a large pack consisting of all the contenders from Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, and other East African countries completed the first lap in a relatively pedestrian 6:29 as the runners tried to figure the course out. Kiplimo, still just 18, pushed the pace through 4K in 12:47—a 6:18 circuit—with all the contenders still in contact. The defending champ began to assert himself during the third lap and led the field through 6K in 18:59—a 6:12 split—as the field began to string out behind and with only Kiplimo, Aron Kifle (Eritrea), Cheptegei, Rhonex Kipruto (Kenya) and Selemon Barega (Ethiopia) remaining in close contact.

Kiplimo and Kamworor traded the lead over the fourth circuit, with Kiplimo getting credit for the lead at 8K in 25:07 (6:08) and Cheptegei shadowing the duo from a couple of strides behind. Cheptegei moved to the front over the final loop, working with Kiplimo to open a gap over the 2-time defending gold medalist. On the long downhill with about a kilometer remaining it looked as if Kamworor was closing on the Ugandan pair, but the duo started to pull away again through the water-, mud- and sand-pit obstacles. Cheptegei opened a small gap over Kiplimo down the hill into the Viking Gauntlet, then continued to edge away over the final run up and down The Roof. He would win in 31:40, 4 seconds ahead of Kiplimo. Kamworor held on for bronze in 31:55.

Cheptegei and Kiplimo were joined by Tomas Ayeko (7th, 32:25) and Joel Ayeko (10th, 32:32) to run away with the team gold for Uganda, totaling 20 points. Kenya edged Ethiopia 43 to 46 for silver.

US champion Shadrack Kipchirchir (33:46) and training partner Stanley Kebenei (33:47) finished 34th and 35th respectively to lead Team USA to an 11th-place finish. “It was pretty tough,” said Kipchirchir. “Those hills got me. I fell back and then tried to pick it back up but everyone was gone.”

The 22-year-old Cheptegei said he’s now turning his attention towards oval racing: “My ambition is to dominate the track for the next 5 or 6 years.”


WORLD XC MEN’S RESULTS

Aarhus, Denmark, March 30 (10,240m—1 lap of 2100m, 3 laps of 2000m, 1 lap of 2140m)—

Teams: 1. Uganda 20; 2. Kenya 43; 3. Ethiopia 46; 4. Eritrea 83; 5. Burundi 91; 6. Bahrain 99; 7. Spain 181; 8. Australia 188; 9. Great Britain 190; 10. Tanzania 194; 11. United States 198.

Individuals: 1. Joshua Cheptegei (Uga) 31:40; 2. Jacob Kiplimo (Uga) 31:44; 3. Geoffrey Kamworor (Ken) 31:55; 4. Aron Kifle (Eri) 32:04; 5. Selemon Barega (Eth) 32:16; 6. Rhonex Kipruto (Ken) 32:17; 7. Thomas Ayeko (Uga) 32:25; 8. Andamlak Belihu (Eth) 32:29; 9. Thierry Ndikumwenayo (Bur) 32:29; 10. Joel Ayeko (Uga) 32:32; 11. Rodrigue Kwizéra (Bur) 32:37; 12. Albert Chemutai (Uga) 32:46; 13. Richard Yator (Ken) 32:51; 14. Onesphoré Nzikwinkunda (Bur) 32:56; 15. Abdi Fufa (Eth) 33:01; 16. Precious Mashele (SA) 33:05; 17. Robel Fsiha (Swe) 33:06; 18. Mogos Tuemay (Eth) 33:06; 19. Birhanu Yemataw (Bhr) 33:08; 20. Ouassim Oumaiz (Spa) 33:10; 21. Rodgers Chumo (Ken) 33:11; 22. Filmon Ande (Eri) 33:12; 23. Albert Rop (Bhr) 33:15; 24. Dawit Fikadu (Bhr) 33:18; 25. Enyew Mekonnen (Eth) 33:23;

26. Aras Kaya (Tur) 33:25; 27. Maxwell Rotich (Uga) 33:28; 28. Awet Habte (Eri) 33:32; 29. Yemane Hailesilassie (Eri) 33:33; 30. Brett Robinson (Aus) 33:34; 31. Mehari Tsegay (Eri) 33:35; 32. Joseph Tiophil (Tan) 33:37; 33. Hassan Chani (Bhr) 33:38; 34. Shadrack Kipchirchir (US) 33:46; 35. Stanley Kebenei (US) 33:47; 36. Napoleon Solomon (Swe) 33:49; 37. Patrick Dever (GB) 33:49; 38. Amos Kirui (Ken) 33:53; 39. Matthew Ramsden (Aus) 33:56; 40. Bonsa Dida (Eth) 33:57; 41. Fernando Carro (Spa) 33:58; 42. Rui Teixeira (Por) 33:58; 43. Noel Hitimana (Rwa) 33:59; 44. Mahamed Mahamed (GB) 34:01; 45. Evans Keitany (Ken) 34:03; 46. Matt Baxter (NZ) 34:03; 47. Bigirimana Theophile (Rwa) 34:08; 48. Félicien Muhitira (Rwa) 34:11; 49. Damas Lazaro Faraja (Tan) 34:12; 50. Emmanuel Roudolff Lévisse (Fra) 34:12;… 60. Hillary Bor (US) 34:29;… 69. Emmanuel Bor (US) 34:43;… 73. Leonard Korir (US) 34:53;… 76. Mason Ferlic (US) 34:59.

(141 started, 140 finished) □

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