Geoffrey Kipsang, Florence Kiplagat emerge winners at Cross Country championships

Geoffrey Kipsang in action during Kenya Police Cross Country championships at Ngong Racecourse on January 11, 2014. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO

What you need to know:

  • Kipsang is eying his maiden national appearance as a senior since winning the World Junior Cross in 2011

The 2011 World Cross Country junior champion Geoffrey Kipsang and 2009 World Cross Country senior women champion Florence Kiplagat are the winners of the 22nd Kenya Police Service Cross Country Championships.

Kipsang (Western) took control of the race after three kilometres to claim his third consecutive victory in the men’s 12km race in 35 minutes 45.7 seconds, beating 2011 and 2013 New York Marathon champion Geoffrey Mutai (CID) to second in 37:26.0.

The 2012 World Indoor 3,000m silver medallist Augustine Choge (Traffic) took third place in 37:27.3 as Josphat Bett followed in fourth 38:02.3.

The 21-year-old Kipsang, who glided to a personal best of 58:54 - just two seconds outside the course record at Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in February last year in the United Arab Emirates, appealed to Athletics Kenya to consider him for the Kenya team for the World Half Marathon due on March 29 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Three months after claiming the Berlin Marathon, Kiplagat (Eastern), who is fresh from winning the final leg of KCB/AK Cross Series in Eldoret the previous weekend, staged a gun-to-tape performance to wins the women’s 8km race in 27:44.0 before declaring her intentions for the World Half Marathon record.

Defending champion Lucy Kabuu and World 5,000m silver medallist Mercy Cherono were among key athletes expect to grace the event but failed to show up. (READ: Kabuu, Kipsang lead charge at cross country championships)

The 2006 World Junior and All Africa Games 1,500m gold medallist Irene Jelagat (Dog Unit) came second in 28:28.7 with Edth Chelimo (Traffic) closing the medal bracket battle in 28:32.8.

Kiplagat, who holds the 2010 World Half Marathon title but has personal best of 1:07:40 from 2010 Lille Half Marathon, will to attempt breaking compatriot’s Mary Keitany’s World Half Marathon record in Barcelona on February 16. Keitany holds the world record of 1:05:50 set at the 2011 Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon.

The 2011 Diamond League Series 1,500m winner Nixon Chepseba led the pack past the 2km mark before the trailblazing Kipsang took command slightly after 3km to lead through 4kms. He was hotly pursued by New York Marathon champion Geoffrey Mutai, Chepseba and World 5,000m bronze medallist Isaiah Kiplangat.

Kipsang, who is eying his maiden national appearance as a senior since winning the World Junior Cross in 2011, widened the gap between him and Mutai, who is the world fastest man in a marathon (2:03:02) to 100m past the 6km mark with Choge, the 2006 Commonwealth Games 5,000m gold medallist, surging to third place.

While Kipsang widened his lead from 200m past 8km to 300m with the last lap to go, Choge, who was the 2006 Commonwealth Games 5,000m champion, worked his way up to reduce his gap against Mutai.

Mutai almost lost the battle to Choge in a breathtaking sprint finish.

“I want to make the national team for the World Half Marathon but if that fails then I will concentrate on training for the Tokyo Marathon due February 24,” said Kipsang. “It’s long since I put on the national colours.”

Mutai, who is targeting his third consecutive New York Marathon title this year, is also eying another World Marathon Majors jackpot this year after winning the 2011/2012 Series.