Police rule as Barsoton, Cheptai win National XC titles

Leonard Barsaton crosses the finish line to win the senior men race during the National ...
Leonard Barsaton crosses the finish line to win the senior men race during the National cross country championship at Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi, Kenya on February 18, 2017. Photo/Stafford Ondego/www.sportpicha.com

Leonard Kiplimo Barsoton stunned pre-race favourites to claim the 2017 Senior Men’s National Cross Country Championships, leading a star-studded Kenya Police Service line-up to a 1-2-3  finish on Saturday at Nairobi’s Uhuru Gardens.

Barsoton, the 2014 Africa Cross Country champion, held off competition from teammates Bedan Karoki and deposed champion Geoffrey Kamworor to stop the men’s 10km timer at 28:56.

Karoki came second in 29:02 as Kamworor completed the Police hatrick in 29:03.

“To put up a performance like this and finish top is amazing. I have been patient enough to wait for this chance since 2013 so I feel very happy and thank God for the win,” Barsoton, a fifth finisher at the 2015 World Cross Country Championships told Citizen Digital.

The Police extended their dominance to the women’s 8km senior race as Irene Cheptai delivered a confounding display to upset defending champion Alice Aprot from Kenya Prisons.

In the captivating contest, Cheptai ran a race-leading 31:48 to clinch the title ahead of Lilian Kasait (31:52) and South Rift’s 2015 National champion Faith Chepng’etich (32:13).

Aprot, the 2014 African Cross champion,  relinquished her crown to settle for a fourth-place finish in 32:18.8 as reigning world champions Agnes Tirop completed the top five list in 32:47.

In winning the senior men’s race, Japan-based Barsoton ended a four-year wait with a come-from-behind victory after trailing third in the final lap behind Kamworor – the reigning world cross champion – and Karoki.

But the 22-year-old gathered enough strength on the last 500 metres to overlap his two illustrious compatriots and sprint away to win the title in 28:56.

Karoki, the world silver medallist, who finished a distant third said he would not compete at the world championships in Kampala in March as he was preparing to make his marathon debut in London in April.

Third-placed Kamworor will however be defending his title in Kampala having recovered from a leg injury he sustained at the Rio Olympics.

In the women’s race, Cheptai ran a tactical race to outwit her favoured opponents  as she relegated Chepngetich – the Olympic 3000m champion – into third place.

“It is my first time to win the Kenyan cross country title. I am also targeting a podium place in Kampala,” said Cheptai, who was placed seventh at the 2015 World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, China.

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