Athletics News

World XC Men — Jacob Kiplimo & Kenya Repeat

World XC Men — Jacob Kiplimo & Kenya Repeat

Kiplimo rushed to a second straight win by covering the 2207m final circuit 4 seconds faster than repeat runner-up Berihu Aregawi. (JIRO MOCHIZUKI)

BELGRADE, SERBIA, March 30 — With a powerful finish on a hot day in the capital city’s Friendship Park, Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo stormed through the last of 5 laps to defend his World title, clocking 28:09 over the 10,025m course in a replay of his ’23 victory over Ethiopian Berihu Aregawi. Kenya, led by Benson Kiplangat in 3rd, captured the team crown, its second in a row.

The course was a loop of 1887m, with an extra length of 270m on the first lap to accommodate the start and a 320m add-on to the final lap for the finish. Temperatures in the low 80s (28C) made the going uncomfortable to any athletes unprepared for the heat. While normally a flat, easy loop, the course featured a variety of technical challenges put in by the organizers, including two “hills” in the form of bridges, a mud pit that was generously watered and quite sloppy by the time of this final race, and a hay maze that offered athletes the choice of weaving around the barriers or leaping over.

Ethiopia’s Chimdessa Debele led the 111-man field through the first two laps, while Kiplimo stayed buried in the front pack, which numbered around 25 at the end of the second loop. Aregawi was far back in 23rd, while Kiplangat ran close to Kiplimo.

On the third go-round, Japan-based Kenyan Gideon Rono made a break before the mud pit, building a 5-second lead by the time he passed the post. Running 2nd at that point was Uganda’s ’19 champion, Joshua Cheptegei, with Debele 3rd and Kiplimo 4th. Kiplimo moved up alongside Cheptegei to reel Rono in, but at the sound of the bell signaling the beginning of the final 2207m loop to the finish, there were still at least 10 in contention.

Kiplimo never relinquished the lead after catching Rono, running aggressively to forge his margin, even hurdling both of the hay barriers. Fast-closing Aregawi came up from well back, moving into 2nd with a kilometer left. However, Kiplimo’s lead was too big to overcome, and the Ugandan finished safely at the front in 28:09. Aregawi came closer than last year with his 28:12. Kiplangat’s 28:14 led his teammates in 4th (Nicholas Kipkorir 28:16), 5th (Samwel Chebolei 28:18) and 7th (national champ Sabastian Sawe in 28:31) to tally the 19 points to seal the Kenyan victory, win No. 26 since it first ascended to the top of the podium in ’86.

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