ELGOIBAR, Spain (IAAF)―Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega and Bahrain’s Ruth Jebet captured convincing victories at the 75th Cross International Juan Muguerza, the fourth of this winter’s IAAF Cross Country Permit meetings, in the Spanish town of Elgoibar on Sunday (Jan. 14).

In doing so, both winners remain unbeaten in this winter season. While the 17-year-old Selemon Barega got rid of Kiplimo only in the closing 500 meters, Olympic steeplechase champion Ruth Jebet secured her win over Kenya’s 2015 world cross-country champion Agnes Tirop midway through the last lap.

Selemon Barega starts and finishes like a bullet

Held on a rainy early afternoon over a muddy circuit, the men’s 10.8km race kicked off at a frantic pace set by world U20 5000m champion Selemon Barega, who covered the opening 400m lap on the track in a more-than-brisk 1:01. Only his young compatriot Abadi Hadis, Kiplimo and Spain’s Illias Fifa managed to run close while Kenya’s world and Olympic steeplechase champion Conseslus Kiptuto was a distant 10th.

Selemon slowed his rhythm down in the following kilometres to let Toroitich join the head while Fifa lost contact with the main group. It meant the lead quartet comprised Selemon, Kiplimo, Hadis and Toroitich while the chasing group included Kipruto plus the Spanish trio of Toni Abadía, Javier Guerra and Fifa.

Ugandan prodigy Kiplimo made most of the pacing duties with Barega always closest behind him. The world U20 champion gradually increased his speed (6:43 and 6:40 for the successive 2.1-kilometre loops) but his pursuers managed to live his pace with relative ease.

Kiplimo’s penultimate lap of 6:30 paid dividends as first Toroitich and later Hadis lost ground and so the race became a replay of the recent Venta de Baños meeting where the two teenagers fiercely fought until the tape with Selemon getting the better of Kiplimo in a thrilling final sprint.

At the bell, the leaders had built a 13-second margin on Hadis, himself another five seconds ahead of Toroitich while the chasing group of Fifa, Kipruto and Abadía were more than a minute adrift.

On the final circuit, world U20 cross-country champion Kiplimo tried in vain to drop Selemon Barega, but the pair entered the final stages virtually even. Selemon eventually outsprinted Kiplimo to become the first Ethiopian to win since 2009 when Ayeleh Abshero took the spoils.

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