Wude Ayalew's shock at Ethiopia's World Cross Country trials

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (IAAF) – African 10,000m bronze medallist Wude Ayalew’s shock defeat of cross country specialists Gelete Burka and Meselech Melkamu in the senior women’s 8km was the highlight of the 26th Jan Meda International Cross Country — Ethiopia’s trials for the World Cross Country Championships — held at the Jan Meda race course in Addis Ababa this morning.

Gebregziabher Gebremariam produced a trademark sprint finish to take victory in the men’s 12km race. Ayele Abshiro and Sule Utura were comfortable winners of the men’s and women’s junior races respectively.

Ayalew stuns Melkamu for 8km victory

After a series of domestic cross country races throughout Ethiopia, the meeting at the Jan Meda brought together the finest Ethiopian hopes in this cross country season. With Ethiopia’s golden trio Kenenisa Bekele, Tirunesh Dibaba, and Sileshi Sihine all missing the race due to injury, it gave the chance to the country’s upcoming and established runners to push for places in Ethiopia’s World Cross Country Championships squad.

Perhaps the biggest winner of the day was the 20-year old Ayalew who has looked impressive on the road in the 2008/09 season with victories in the Great Ethiopian Run (10km) and Sao Silvestre 15km road race in Brazil.

In her debut cross country race in 2009, Ayalew proved that she can not only compete against the so-called cross country specialists, but also beat them.

After a frenetic start to the race, a group of ten runners initially led by Burka started to push on the pace after the first lap (2km). But with the warm and windy conditions affecting the field, the runners were forced to slow down to a virtually walking pace that allowed lagging runners to catch up on the field.

Melkamu, Burka, Ayalew, and Koreni Jelila all exchanged leads at the head of the pack before Burka at the start of the final lap and looked comfortable for her second ever 8km victory at the Jan Meda race course.

With 200m of the race left, Melkamu was the first run to inject a serious pace at the head of the pack. But Ayalew covered that superbly and launched her own kick to take victory in front of an appreciative crowd.

Melkamu beat Burka for second place with Jelila, Sentayehu Ejigu (winner of the Boston indoor 5000m two weeks ago), and Mamitu Deska occupying the top six places.

The biggest disappointment of the race was defending world cross country silver medallist Mestawet Tufa, who aggravated a leg injury and dropped out of the content with laps of the race left.

“It was a very tough race and I am happy with the victory,” says Ayalew. “I am hoping for a medal in Amman. Although I have not run much recently, cross country is quite important for me. I want to win something this year and hopefully make the Ethiopian 10,000m team for the world championships in Berlin.”

Gebremariam outsprints young field in men’s 12km

In contrast, the men’s 12km had a great element of predictability with African 10,000m champion Gebregziabher Gebremariam taking a sprint victory over upcoming runner Feyissa Lelisa.

A thoroughbred of the course since he made his debut running for his Tigray regional team in 2001, Gebremariam has now won the senior men’s 12km race a whooping three times.

Gebremariam’s Yuriy Borzakovsky-esque-come-from-the-back is often a risk he happily takes. And in a course like Jan Meda where heavy winds prevent any emotional front running, such tactics do not have such pronounced effects always giving him the edge.

The only runner who tried to apply pressure to the field at various intervals was All-African Games 10,000m silver medallist Tadesse Tola, but with the likes of World indoor 3000m champion Tariku Bekele and Abebe Dinkessa following suit, his moves were always covered.

At the bell, Tola led the quartet in a scramble for positions at the head of the pack. Young runners Hunegnaw Mesfin and Habtamu Fekadu also tried their hand at the lead, but Gebremariam, who at this point was the back of the pack, made his move with 150m left. At the end, his burst of acceleration had taken a full 20m ahead of the chasing pack before he started celebrations way ahead of the finishing tape.

Lelisa, who has been the top domestic performer in the Ethiopian cross country circuit this season, beat Tola for second place, while Tariku Bekele, Mesfin, and Fekadu made up the other qualifying positions for Amman.

Utura beats Genzebe Dibaba in the battle of the future

Much like their older compatriots Tirunesh Dibaba and Meseret Defar, youngsters Sule Utura and Genzebe Dibaba who are widely hailed as the future of Ethiopia’s women distance running are developing into fierce rivals each time they come up against each other.

After Genzebe, youngster sister to Tirunesh Dibaba, defeated Utura in last year’s race, Utura gained revenge at the World junior championships last year when taking the 5000m title.

The outcome of the latest instalment of the Dibaba v Utura went the way of Utura who powered ahead of her archrival with 200m of the race left for victory. It was Utura’s second junior race title in three years, the last race she will compete as a junior before moving up the ranks in 2010.

Unlike Dibaba, Utura has never won a medal at the World cross and victory in Amman looks more likely following her impressive performance here.

In the men’s junior race, world junior cross country silver medallist Ayele Abshiro lived up to his pre-race billing taking a comfortable victory ahead of Yetwale Kinde and Dejen Gebremeskel.

– By Elshadai Negash for the IAAF

Leading Results

Women’s Junior 6km
1. Sule Utura (Defence)
2. Genzebe Dibaba (Muger Cement)
3. Emebet Anteneh (Amhara region)
4. Meseret Mengistu (Oromiya Police)
5. Tsega Gelaw (Defence)
6. Frehiwot Goshu (Prisons Police)

Men’s Junior 8km
1. Ayele Abshiro (Unattached )
2. Yetwale Kinde (Unattached)
3. Dejen Gebremeskel (Ethiopian Banks)
4. Atalay Yersaw (Defence)
5. Debebe Woldesenbet (Omedla)
6. Legesse Lemiso (Defence)

Women’s Senior 8km
1. Wude Ayalew (EEPCO)
2. Meselech Melkamu (EEPCO)
3. Gelete Burka (Unattached)
4. Koreni Jelila (Defence)
5. Sentayehu Ejigu (Ethiopian Banks)
6. Mamitu Deska (Oromiya Police)

Men’s Senior 12km
1. Gebregziabher Gebremariam (Ethiopian Banks)
2. Feyissa Lelisa (Defence)
3. Tadesse Tola (Prisons Police)
4. Tariku Bekele (Muger Cement)
5. Hunegnaw Mesfin (Ethiopian Banks)
6. Habtamu Fekadu (Defence)