Kenyan’s strong performance gets her the gold on her international senior debut, while Ethiopia claims a cleansweep in the junior women’s race in Guiyang

Agnes Tirop stormed to senior women’s victory at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, China, on Saturday, beating Ethiopia’s Senbere Teferi on her international senior debut.

At the age of 19, Tirop, who won junior women’s silver in Bydgoszcz two years ago, is the youngest winner of this title since Zola Budd in 1985 and the second youngest in World Cross history.

As expected, Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes dominated, with five athletes from each nation filling the top ten spots. On the final 2km lap Teferi had looked comfortable, glancing behind as she sat on Tirop’s shoulder, and it seemed as though she was waiting for the right time to make a move. But that time never came and as Teferi, who finished third in the Ethiopian trials and second over 3000m at the Sainsbury’s Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham in February, began to tire, Tirop seemingly only became stronger and pulled away to clock 26:01 and finish five seconds clear.

The final podium place went to Ethiopia’s Netsanet Gudeta who was a further six seconds behind.

“Although it is my first championship at the senior level it was not a very big challenge,” Tirop said. “The course is very good.”

Tirop and team-mate Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi had gone to the front early on to tackle 8km on the twisting course which was fairly firm underfoot despite recent rain.

Tirop held on to her lead as the six Kenyan and six Ethiopian athletes made up the leading pack on lap two, with defending champion Emily Chebet, racing with her married name of Muge on her vest, settling herself mid-pack.

Commonwealth 10,000m bronze medallist Chebet had only secured a spot on Kenya’s team having been handed a discretionary place by selectors after dropping out of the trials race and she couldn’t demonstrate the same sort of form which saw her win her 2013 title in Poland as well as 2010 gold.

Gaps started to open up on the third lap and the lead pack was down to eight. Running well a little further back were Britain’s two representatives – Gemma Steel and Rhona Auckland.

As two-time world junior 5000m bronze medallist Tirop wrapped up her victory, the battle for the other team scoring spots was on. World junior 5000m champion Alemitu Heroye followed her Ethiopian team-mates over the line in fourth, as three Kenyans and then three Ethiopians followed – Stacy Ndiwa in fifth, Chebet in sixth and Irene Chepet Cheptai in seventh. Mamitu Daska was one spot ahead of world 10,000m bronze medallist Belaynesh Oljira, as 2011 junior silver medallist and trials winner Genet Yalew finished in 10th.

Ethiopian-born Trihas Gebre, who gained Spanish citizenship last year and won the Spanish cross-country title, was the top European athlete in 15th, one place ahead of local favourite Ding Changqin who finished 16th a week after running a 2:26:54 marathon PB.

The two European champions – Steel in the senior race and Auckland in the under-23 – maintained their top 20 places on the world stage, finishing 18th and 19th respectively. For Auckland it was her first race since Samokov due to injury.

“I’m over the moon, considering how hard it was out there,” said Steel. “I did it the hard way, but I did it the way I always do it – hard from the start. I gave myself a chance to be there with the lead group but they were just a little bit quick for me.

“I know I can compete with some of these girls on the road, but it’s a different ball game at cross country championships.”

Top and notable senior women’s results

1 Agnes Jebet Tirop KEN 26:01
2 Senbere Teferi ETH 26:06
3 Netsanet Gudeta ETH 26:11
4 Alemitu Heroye ETH 26:14
5 Stacy Chepkemboi Ndiwa KEN 26:16
6 Emily Chebet Muge KEN 26:18
7 Irene Chepet Cheptai KEN 26:26
8 Mamitu Daska ETH 26:29
9 Belaynesh Oljira ETH 26:29
10 Genet Yalew ETH 27:00
15 Tirhas Gebre ESP 27:50
16 Changqin Ding CHN 27:52
17 Xinyan Zhang CHN 28:02
18 Gemma Steel GBR 28:14
19 Rhona Auckland GBR 28:17

Team

1 Ethiopia 17
2 Kenya 19
3 Uganda 101
4 PR of China 122
5 United States 128

Junior women: Gidey leads Ethiopian 1-2-3

Letesenbet Gidey led an Ethiopian cleansweep in the 6km junior women’s race, despite a brief moment of panic late on as the 17-year-old almost went the wrong way on approaching the home straight.

She had built enough of an advantage so that her mistake didn’t cost her the gold, though, and she crossed the line clear in 19:48 ahead of Dera Dida and Etagegn Woldu.

Unsurprisingly after their 1-2-3, Ethiopia took the junior women’s team title ahead of Kenya and Bahrain for the second time the nation has claimed a cleansweep in this race after first doing so in 2004.

“It is a big motivation for me,” Gidey said on claiming victory. “I have done it right. In the future I want to make my country proud again.”

Kenya’s Rosefline Chepngetich had gone into the race as the favourite and although a trio of Kenyan athletes were to the fore in the early stages, the world youth steeplechase champion and Kenyan cross-country gold medallist wasn’t initially among them.

Sporting tape on one of her knees, Chepngetich featured mid-leading pack but soon worked her way towards the front along with Gladys Kipkoech and Youth Olympic 1500m silver medallist Winfred Mbithe.

Kenya’s 2012 world junior steeplechase champion Daisy Jepkemei led ahead of Bahrain’s world junior steeplechase champion Ruth Jebet with the final of three laps to go, the pair followed closely by five Ethiopian athletes.

It was national trials winner Gidey who made the first move, looking comfortable she pulled away to lead her team to claiming five of the top six places, the group broken up only by Jepkemei in fourth.

Denmark’s Maria Larsen in 30th was the top European athlete, while Cassandre Beaugrand of France placed 37th.

Hannah Nuttall led home the British contingent, the 17-year-old following in the footsteps of her parents Alison and John, who contested 12 world cross country championships between them, to finish 45th. Bronwen Owen finished 72nd, Abbie Donnelly 80th and Grace Baker 82nd.

Amy Griffiths was forced to pull out mid-race after suffering a fall, while Britain’s junior team had also earlier been hit by two withdrawals – Donnelly having replaced Harriet Knowles-Jones who had been refused a visa to travel to China and Phoebe Law, who was 14th in the Euro Cross and had enjoyed a consistent winter, having to pull out through illness.

Top and notable junior women’s results

1 Letesenbet Gidey ETH 19:48
2 Dera Dida ETH 19:49
3 Etagegn Woldu ETH 19:53
4 Daisy Jepkemei KEN 19:59
5 Mihret Tefera ETH 20:02
6 Dagmawit Kibru ETH 20:07
7 Gladys Jeptekeny Kipkoech KEN 20:13
8 Desi Mokonin BRN 20:17
9 Ruth Jebet BRN 20:20
10 Winfred Nzisa Mbithe KEN 20:31
30 Maria Larsen DEN 21:49
37 Cassandre Beaugrand FRA 22:12
45 Hannah Nuttall GBR 22:23
72 Bronwen Owen GBR 23:17
80 Abbie Donnelly GBR 23:46
82 Grace Baker GBR 24:00
Amy Griffiths GBR DNF

Team

1 Ethiopia 11
2 Kenya 33
3 Bahrain 52
4 Uganda 65
5 Japan 98
15 GB & NI 279

» See the April 2 edition of Athletics Weekly magazine for further reports, pictures and results from Guiyang

» A senior and junior men’s World Cross report can be found here