Ben True leads Americans to podium with four USA athletes in top 19 at Bydgoszcz, Neely Spence leads U.S. senior women with 13th place finish
BYDGOSZCZ, Poland (March 24, 2013) - Kenya's Japhet Korir was a surprise winner of the senior men's title at the 2013 IAAF World Cross Country Championships on Sunday (24), pocketing $30,000.
The USA senior men's team, buoyed by an impressive sixth place finish from Ben True, won a silver medal, their first time on the podium in a men's race since 2001. True's sixth was best American placing in the senior men's race since 1984.
Korir, in only his third race in the last nine months after getting badly spiked in the Kenyan trials for the 2012 IAAF World Junior Championships last June, also become the youngest ever senior champion and only the second teenager to win the long race, following in the footsteps of the prodigious Kenenisa Bekele.
He consistently to the fore after the race started to hot up after the halfway point and then pushed hard in the final kilometre to gradually edge away from Ethiopia's defending champion Imane Merga.
Korir crossed the line after 12K, with the icy course getting ever more difficult to navigate after three previous races, in 32:45 with Merga six seconds in back. The pace was a relatively sedentary 5:40 at the end of the first 2K lap, compared to 5:24 for the junior men, but improved a little on the a second lap at 4K was covered in 11:09. Nevertheless a large group of 17 runners was still together a third of the way into the race.
The pace remained steady up to the halfway point as the next two kilometres was covered by the leaders in 5:23 but the group dwindled to nine.
Korir and Uganda's Timothy Torotich continued to be the driving forces on the fourth lap and by 8K the group had been reduced to six: Korir, Merga, Torotich and his well-known compatriot Moses Kipsiro, Eritrea's Teklemariam Medhin and Australia's Collis Birmingham, the latter literally shadowing the rest from the rear of the six-man group due to his stature.
True, who won the 2013 U.S. 15K championship earlier this month, joined the group midway through the penultimate lap. He was fifth at the USA Cross Country Championships in February. Birmingham started to fade at the bell, with 10K reached in a very fast 27:17.
Medhin saw the indicator for one lap to go from the front but soon ceased to be a factor in the race for the gold medal, as did the two Ugandans, as Korir and Merga started to battle for supremacy in the 11th kilometer. The tiring Merga visibly settled for second place about 200m from the line, letting Korir, just sixth in the Kenyan trials last month and the last man to be named to the team after his fitness issues since the summer, cruise to victory.
Medhin, three years after winning the silver medal in the same city, took the bronze in 32:54. The three medallists were followed home by Kipsiro and Torotich and True finished sixth.
Ethiopia won the team contest for the first time since 2005, after six consecutive Kenyan victories.
Ethiopia put together a total of 38 points, with their other three scorers lead by top marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa in ninth place. Abera Chane and Tesfaye Abera in 13th and 14th place might have been expecting to have been having had silver medals hung around the necks but their placings were high enough to win gold with the second highest score since the 'six-to-run, four-to-score' rule was introduced to the senior men's race in 1998.
The U.S. had three other athletes in the top 19 to seal their podium performance. Chris Derrick was 10th in 33:23, Ryan Vail was 17th in 33:42, and Bobby Mack was 18th in 33:49.
Kenya finished third with 54 points, the first time they had not taken the gold or silver medals since 1984.
In the women's senior race, Neely Spence finished 13th (25:08) to place as top non-African and lead the U.S. team.
Kenya's Emily Chebet, 27, enjoyed an impressive return to the top of the medals podium in winning her second global title. Chebet led the Kenyan outfit to emphatic gold medal-winning display, with 19 points to Ethiopia's 48.
For full results and more World Cross Country Champioinship coverage, visit IAAF.org.