Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamworor Wins 2015 World XC Champs To Officially Arrive As A Star; Fierce Team Battle Goes To Ethiopia On The Tiebreaker
Chris Derrick Finishes As Top Non-African-Born Runner in 24th As Team USA Finishes 7th
March 28, 2015
GUIYANG, China — Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamworor is the new king of distance running as he earned a much-deserved first senior world cross country title at the 2015 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, adding to the junior title he earned in his only other appearance at these championships in 2011. Kamworor was relentless in pushing the pace and he finally broke his compatriot Bedan Karoki, who was 5th in the 2012 Olympics and 6th at 2013 Worlds in the 10,000, on the final man-made obstacle of the course, a double hill separated by about 10 meters, less than 200 meters from the finish. Kamworor obliterated Karoki in the final 200, winning by eight seconds in 34:52, but Karoki jogged it in once it was clear he was beaten.
2014 5000 world leader Muktar Edris of Ethiopia grabbed the bronze in 35:06. 12:47 world junior 5000 record holder Hagos Gebrhiwet of Ethiopia was best of the rest in fourth in 35:15, but the medals were all but decided on lap number four of six as the leading trio moved to a 10+ second lead on the fourth lap.
If World Cross Country wasn’t a bi-annual affair, Kamworor might be a two-time senior men’s champ as last year with World XC being replaced on the calendar with the World Half Marathon Championships, he won that title as well.
Team wise, the senior men’s race at the 2015 IAAF World Cross Country Championships was expected to be a close battle between Kenya and Ethiopia and it did not disappoint! The teams tied at 20 points apiece with Ethiopia winning on the tiebreaker thanks to a better finish by their fourth man (7th vs. 12th). Considering Kenya got the top two medals, and the individual title is what the East African countries most cherish, one might have a hard time convincing the Kenyan men they weren’t the real winners on the day. In fact, at the IAAF post-race press conference, in a bit of a blunder by the IAAF, Edris was asked if Ethiopia was okay with its somewhat disappointing result, somehow forgetting the Ethiopia actually won the team title.
Kamworor with the Kenya 1-2 acted like Kenya won the team title. He told Kenyan journalist Mutwiri Mutuota, “We thank God we made it, we pushed the pace high until we won. I won the World Juniors in 2011 and the World Half last year and today, I’m very happy since it is hard to win a medal. I’m going straight away to prepare for the World Championships.”
The Race: Ethiopia Tries To Wrap The Team Battle Up Early, But Kenya Fights Back To Make It Close
With large fields fighting for position before the course narrows, cross country encourages fast starts. However, this one was exceptional with Kamworor sprinting right to the front like he was racing a 400, leaving commentators Paula Radcliffe and Steve Cram (?) on the BBC questioning his “common sense.” Right behind Kamworor were the rest of the top Africans you would expect as a very large pack was made up of the top Kenyans, Ethiopians, Ugandans, Eritreans and (maybe surprisingly), five runners from Bahrain.
American Chris Derrick, who was 10th in 2013, wasn’t close to the lead as he got out in the 60s.
By the end of the second lap, the lead group had whittled down to 13 men and Kenya looked to already be in trouble as they only had three up front with their other three falling back. Meanwhile Ethiopia had five and Bahrain had four in the pack … could Kenya be heading for a second-straight bronze medal finish?
The pack began to stretch out when Bahrain’s Albert Rop went to the front and put in a surge, but his lead was short-lived as Kenya’s Karoki and then Kamworor, took over. Before long, the lead group was down to four Ethiopians and three Kenyans. Kamworor and Karoki kept pushing at the front, slowly dropping everyone until only they and Ethiopia’s Muktar Edris remained.
Kamworor and Karoki continued trading the lead and keeping up the pressure, building a gap on Edris inches at a time. With one lap of the 2K course to go, Edris was still within striking distance, just two seconds back, but it didn’t take much longer for it to become a two-man race.
At this point it was anyone’s guess who was going to take the individual win between Kamworor and Karoki as they ran side-by-side, stride for stride. However with less than 200m to go Kamworor made it very clear who had the most left in the tank as he injected a sudden surge on the final of the course’s six man-made obstacles that were part of each lap, and instantly put a big gap on Karoki who soon resigned himself to 2nd as he took a look back to see how much room he had on 3rd (Edris).
It then went Ethiopia (Hagos Gebhriwet), Kenya (Leonard Barsoton), and two more Ethiopians (Tamirat Tola and Atsedu Tsegay). This is where the team battle was won for Ethiopia as Kenya’s fourth man was Philip Langat back in 12th. Kenya and Ethiopia tied each other at 20 for team points, but Kenya lost on the tiebreaker (the best fourth man).
Best Of The Rest And Team USA
Behind the Kenya-Ethiopia show up front, the third-best team was by far Bahrain who got bronze with four men in the top 20 and 54 team points. Eritrea and Uganda were well-beaten in fourth and fifth (94 and 95 points) while Tanzania just edged the U.S. for sixth (130 to 131).
The “Miracle on Dirt” from 2013 was not to be repeated as it was a more normal day for the Americans. USA went from second as a team in 2013 with two in the top 10 and four in the top 20 to seventh as a team and four in the top 40 (none in the top 20). Chris Derrick (10th last time) led the team in 24th as Ryan Vail, Patrick Smyth and Bobby Curtis were 34th, 36th and 37th. Maksim Korolev (57th) and Andrew Colley (90th) didn’t score for Team USA.
The Americans never contended in this one as right from the start they were way back. Yes, the start was incredibly fast, but after the first 2K lap Derrick was the only one in the top 40 as he was in 32nd, 12 seconds off the leaders. Behind him the next three Americans were 57th, 65th and 70th. By the end of the third lap (so over halfway) Derrick had moved up to 25th and the other three were inside the top 50, but those are still nowhere close to places needed for a bronze-medal finish.
A humbling day for sure, but not totally unexpected. Before the start of the men’s race, LRC’s Robert Johnson in Guiyang asked a prominent coach what would happen to the Americans and if it was possible for Team USA and Derrick to medal. He replied along the lines of, “Have you been watching the first three races?” Clearly Africa was dominating and he feared that would be the case once again in this one there was “nothing to slow down the Africans” as the footing was firm and the weather warm and dry (64 and overcast). The prediction that they would go to the front and hammer proved to be right on the money. In Poland in 2013 there was cold and slop to slow them down.
Quick Thoughts #1: Great Teamwork By The Two Kenyans But Kamworor Deserved This One
Geoffrey Kamworor is a stud — a world junior xc champ and 59:31 half marathon guy at age 18. He pushed throughout in this one and deserved to win. Might he finally be the guy that upends Mo Farah, or at least makes him work for a world title on the track this summer? We’ve got many more thoughts on Kamworor here: 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
QT #2: Some Praise For Muktar Edris
Kamworor and Karoki really worked well together as a team to break the rest of the field, but Edris didn’t make it easy for them. He hung on for a long time and ran pretty smart, not responding to the Kenyans’ surges, but keeping an even pace and making up the ground from the surge when they slowed down. With the constant pressure being applied, it could have been easy for him to give up and “protect” third (which he had locked up), but he went for broke.
After the race, he was content with third as he said this was his first 12k — a much longer distance than the 5000 meters where he has excelled.
QT #3: Really Not A Bad Day For Chris Derrick
Before the race, Derrick said, “I think there are probably six to eight guys that credential-wise are definitely a level above me and then another 10-15 guys that are around my level.” So based on that he could have finished anywhere from 17th to 23rd and he was 24th. And excluding former Africans who now run for European or Asian countries, Derrick was the top non-African, finishing 26 seconds in front of Australia’s Brett Robinson (13:18 5000 PB).
Afterwards, Derrick said the race felt very hard and he did the best he could. When he got up to about 25th he was running with Goitom Kifle of Eritrea, whom he knew was good (seventh in 2013), and thought he’d help them move up, but they just stayed in the 20s. He would look up and think he was gaining on the people up front, but it just didn’t happen. Derrick said at times he felt good but the good patches would quickly subside and he wasn’t sure if that was because of the altitude or not.
Derrick wished he’d maybe he had gone out a little harder (30s instead of 60s) because he had to move up a lot early on, but let’s not kid ourselves. A medal was totally out of the question for anyone in America today, Galen Rupp included. The leading trio were pretty sensational. Kamworor beat ninth place by 63 seconds and beat Derrick by nearly two minutes (1:53). Derrick may have been only 10 spots ahead of Vail but it was very much spread out — he was 42 seconds better than Vail, a 27:44 guy.
Top 15 get the World Championships 10,000m ‘A’ standard, so he missed that by nine places (23 seconds) and now will focus on getting that at Stanford at Payton Jordan.
QT #4: Bahrain = Africa
Let’s take a look at the six men representing the Asian nation of Bahrain.
- 10th place – Aweke Ayalew – Formerly of Ethiopia (changed citizenship in May 2013)
- 11th place – Albert Rop – Former Kenyan (switched in Apr. 2013)
- 15th place – El Hassan Elabbassi – Former Moroccan
- 18th place – Isaac Korir – Former Kenyan (until Feb. 2014)
- 19th place – Zelalem Bacha – Ethiopian-born (switched Dec. 2012)
- 20th palce – Hassan Chani – Former Moroccan (switched Dec. 2013)
Bahrain caught a lot of flak at the Asian Games last summer because pretty much all of their track medalists were former Africans (East African distance runners, West African sprinters). Changing nationalities and moving to a different country for personal reasons is fine by us. But a country buying Kenyans and Ethiopians to come win medals for them is just fake and in our minds, pathetic.
Most of these runners spend most of their times living in their original countries and just show up at major championships to win medals for Bahrain. What kind of nationalistic pride Bahrain gets from that? We don’t know or understand. As far as we’re concerned, the US was the first non-African team.
QT #5: Come On Europe
The top European country was Spain in 12th. At least they competed. Great Britain
didn’t even bother sending a full team and wound up 15th in the 17-team field (they had a team of 5 guys instead of 6), behind the likes of Peru and China.
QT: Ryan Vail, Bobby Curtis and Brett Robinson talk about their races:
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|14||PR of China||PR of China||285|
|15||Great Britain & N.I.||Great Britain & N.I.||295|