4 Takeaways From An Awesome 2015 World Cross-Country Championships: Get Used To The Name Geoffrey Kamworor, The Vindication Of Sara Hall, LRC Is Popular In China, And African Domination Is A Good Thing

by Robert Johnson
March 28, 2015

Guiyang, China – The 2015 IAAF World Cross-Country Championships are in the books. I had an awesome time running around the course experiencing today and here are my four initial takeaways from the action. (Our recap and analysis of the men’s race is here.)

1) Get Used To The Name Geoffrey Kamworor – He’s Gonna Be A Star For A Long Time

Four years ago, Kamworor marked himself as a future star when he absolutely dominated the junior boys race in Spain, a race I learned the other day that he only showed up on the morning of the race due to visa problems, without any sleep in a hotel bed.

He ran 13:12 and 27:06 later that year on the track in the US (Adidas for 5k, Pre for 10,000) but before doing that he’d already turned his attention to the roads with his half marathon debut. He ran 59:31 for 13.1 that year at age 18, before improving to 59:26 in 2012, and 58:51 in 2013 before winning the World Half Marathon Championship in 2014. During that time, he ran five marathons, but none faster than the 2:06:12 he ran in his debut.

This year, he moves down in distance to 12k and is world champ once again. After the race, I caught up with his agent Valentinjn Trouw of the Netherlands and asked him if Kamworor had run on the roads at such an early age for monetary considerations. He said that money has never been the focus for Kamworor. He said from the beginning of their relationship Kamworor talked about running 58 for the half and excelling at the marathon. The roads were what he was passionate about. Plus there really haven’t been any 10,000s for Kamworor to run, particularly last year.

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“There’s no future just running the 10,000 – only one race a year,” said Trouw.

Having yet to have the breakthrough marathon he so desires, Kamworor decided to focus on cross and the 10,000 in 2015 before re-evaluating in 2016 what he’s best at.

Trouw said Kamworor’s mentor in the sport is Eliud Kipchoge – the 2003 world 5000 champ and a man whom Renato Canova cited earlier this week as one of the most consummate professionals in the sport. Trouw said based on training and what the 2:04:05 man Kipchoge has done, it’s surprising Kamworor hasn’t rocked the marathon yet.

The thing I was most impressed today was how Kamworor attacked from the very fist step. Kamworor did not lead every single step of this race but certainly the majority of it. His bold/crazy start set the tone and is a mindset he’ll need come August.

Will Kamworor employ a similar tactic at Worlds in the 10,000 in Beijing against Mo Farah? Let’s hope so. Trouw said that Kamworor was very much aware that the Ethiopian men Hagos Gebrhiwet and Muktar Edris are 5000 guys with big kicks so he purposely tried to break them with a relentless attack.

Trouw correctly pointed out that no one has ever put a “real pressure” on Mo Farah at Worlds in a 10,000 – the way Zerseney Tadese did against Kenenisa Bekele at Worlds in 2009 in Berlin in a race that Bekele had to run 26:46 to win. Trouw seemed confident Kamworor would try a similar tactic at Worlds.

When I pointed out that the problem is that Farah himself can run in the 26:40s, Trouw responded, “Well at least then he has to work for it. He has to be on his best. If he has a small injury (or is off), he wouldn’t win. At least you have to try, what else can you do?”

Below you will see a video where Kamworor and bronze medallist Muktar Edris respond to a post-race question I gave them about how do they try beat Mo Farah in Beijing.

Kamworor’s win validated the event (more on this thought below). As I was on the bus going to the meet this morning, I thought to myself, “I’m changing my pick. Let’s don’t overcomplicate this. Kamworor is a stud. He’s the world half marathon champ who dominated this race as a junior with no sleep. Yes there are some other studs like 2013 junior champ Hagos Gebrhiwet but he’s a 5000 man. Kamworor FTW.”

2) Sara Hall Was Vindicated

After she had a disastrous marathon debut in LA two weeks ago (2:48:02), many questioned how Sara Hall could possibly run the 2015 IAAF World Cross Country Championships (MB: Is Sara Hall really running World XC two weeks after LA?). One of the people questioning her participation was Hall herself who told me the other day when she finished LA, she didn’t see how she could rebound just two weeks later. US coach James Li encouraged her to stay on the team. Hall told us before the race she was really glad she did as she’d recovered really well and even had a few good workouts and was looking forward to showing the fitness she’d had in practice but not on race day in LA.

Hall certainly proved that her marathon training had gone well today as she was the only American in any of the 4 races in the top 20 (Hall was 20th) and led the Team USA women the highest US finish of the day – 5th.

Hall looked like a million bucks when I caught up with her in the middle of the men’s 12k. She was still cooling down, running around the course cheering on Team USA.

3) Total African Domination (And That May Be A Good Thing)

Ethiopia or Kenya won all of the individual medals today and went 1-2 in some order in all of the team races. The bronze medals in the team races went to Bahrain (full of African-born scorers we believe) in the junior girls race, Eritrea in the junior boys race, Uganda in the women’s race and Bahrain (full of African born scorers we believe) in the men’s race.

As mentioned above, Sara Hall was the lone American to crack the top 20 in any race but that was simply because Africa – I guess I should say East Africa – totally dominated not just the US but everyone else as well.

The top non-African born runner was as follows in each race:

Jr Girls – 16th for Japan’s Azusa Sumi  (top American was Kaitlyn Benner in 27th)
Jr Boys – 25th for Canada and Syracuse’s Justyn Knight (top American was John Dressel in 27th)
Sr. Women – 16th for China’s Changqin Ding (top American was Sara Hall in 20th)
Sr. Men – 24th for American Chris Derrick.

All told there were six non-African born runners in the top 20 in 4 races (in addition to those listed above, China’s Xinyan Zhang was 17th in the women’s race and Brits Gemma Steel and Rhona Auckland were 18th and 19th).

Some American fans may bemoan that fact, but not me. To me, it’s a good thing the Africans dominated. It shows that the quality of the fields were stellar. Yes cross country’s decline in popularity has come largely as a result of the rise of the African domination, but if the top African runners start skipping it as well, then the meet will really be in trouble. The quality of the African competitors today was truly top-notch and it wowed.

4) LetsRun.com Is Popular In China

Meet Team USA’s two Super Fans in Matthew Van Orden and Dan Gerber.

Discuss the meet on the Mboard:

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