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Distance Races Don’t Disappoint At World Juniors

Rain doesn’t slow down Ndiku in men’s 1,500 meters.

Written by: Chris Lotsbom
(c) 2010 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

Three distance event finals took place Thursday at the Stade de Moncton 2010, and none of them disappointed the rain-soaked crowd at the 13th IAAF World Junior Championships.

The first track final of the day was the women’s 3000-meter steeplechase, a race filled with thrills, spills, and yet another duel between Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes.

The thrills and spills began as early as the first water barrier, as Mexico’s Azucena Rodriguez fell, creating a domino effect which took down much of the eight-person field.  The only ones to escape unscathed were Kenya’s Purity Kirui, Ethiopia’s Birtukan Adamu and Almaz Ayana.  Despite being brought down by Rodriguez’s fall, Kenya’s Lucia Muangi led through the first kilometer in 3:10.61.  Running without spikes, Muangi again slipped on the fifth barrier, possibly due to wet track conditions.  Rain had been falling prior to the start of the steeplechase. Reacting to the fall was Kirui, who took the lead and went on to take the gold in 9:36.34, a personal best time.

“The rain was not very good, but I tried my best,” said the 18 year-old champion.

The race for second was on behind Kirui, as Muangi tried to make up for her fall in the water jump.  But in the final meters, Muangi was unable to keep up with Adamu, who went on to take the silver in 9:43.23, also a personal best.  Finishing in third, despite two falls and a cut on the bottom of her foot, was the ever-tough Muangi, nearly a half-second behind in 9:43.71.

“It was hard for me because I had no shoes,” said Muangi, pointing to the cut on her foot. “The weather, altitude, cold and rain affected me.”

The second distance final of the afternoon was the women’s 800 meters.

Out hard through 200 meters was American-prep sensation Ajee Wilson from Neptune High School in New Jersey.   Annet Negesa of Uganda took over the lead by the halfway point in 57.79, with Kenya’s Cherono Koech and Romania’s Elena Mirela Lavric, as well as Wilson, close behind.  With 200 meters remaining, Lavric took over and showed why she was the European Junior champion in 2009.  With a 32.53 200-meter split, Lavric ran away with the gold.

“This is my third time being a world champion, so I am very happy with the win,” said Lavric, 19, referring to her victories at the 2008 World Junior and 2007 World Youth Championships, also at 800 meters.

But Lavric wasn’t happy about one thing: her time.  “I am not happy with my time, I felt I could do better,” she said.

Earning the silver medal was Koech in 2:02.29, while Negesa got the bronze in 2:02.51.  Early leader Wilson placed fifth in 2:04.18, a personal best.  “I may have gone out too fast, so I backed off after the first lap,” said Wilson.  “My legs didn’t feel as good as I hoped, and I may have done better with a slower first part. This was my first meet ever where everyone is at a very high level.”

The final distance event contested of the evening was the men’s 1,500 meters, which was won by Caleb Mwangangi Ndiku of Kenya in 3:37.30.

From the gun, the field of twelve immediately strung out into a single file behind Ndiku.  Passing 400 meters in a startling 55.89, Ndiku was not about to let off the gas pedal.  As the 17 year-old Kenyan hit 800 meters in 1:55.33, it looked as if he was in complete control.  By the time the bell lap began, the question wasn’t who was going to win the race, but who would place second to Ndiku.  Despite running comfortably in second and third the entire race, Mohammad Al-Garni of Qatar and Mohamed Bensghir of Morocco were caught by Algeria’s Abderrahmane Anou, seemingly coming out of nowhere from fourth place to nab second place and the silver medal.  Before Anou hit the line, though, it was Ndiku who won gold in a personal best 3:37.30.

“I know I have lots of endurance and I know the other guys are very good in speed, more than me, so that’s why I started to run from the front all the way,” said Ndiku.

Not until the finishing straight was he confident in himself.  “I started celebrating because I knew there was no hope for them.”