Dueling with Mercy Cherono, the World Junior Cross Country and 3000-meter champion from Kenya for most of the race, Dibaba was faced with the challenge of beating one of the best junior runners on the planet–not an easy task considering Cherono’s excellent form as of late.
Similar to the tactics she used in the 3,000 meters on Monday, Cherono grabbed the lead early and looked to be in cruise control. By the 3,000-meter mark it was clear that it would be a classic head-to-head race, yet another duel between Africa’s two dominant distance running nations.
Knowing that she would have to make a move before the sprint speed of Cherono became a threat, Dibaba pulled even with two laps to go, showing she had what it takes to win. But Cherono soon reacted, and both would trade the lead for the next quarter mile, taking the bell together. That’s when luck would strike for Dibaba. As Cherono grabbed the lead and seemed to be pulling away, her feet skimmed the inside rail of the Stade Moncton track, causing her to stumble and lose momentum. Dibaba reacted instantaneously, taking the lead and not looking back until crossing the finish line in 15:08.06, a new championship record.
“I knew I could pass her with 100 meters left,” said Dibaba, who earned her first world junior title. “I have better speed than her over the last 100 meters, so I stayed back deliberately. When she stumbled, I had never given up hope and had planned to kick over the last 100 meters, so I didn’t focus on her stumbling.”
“It’s not how I wanted to finish,” said Cherono, who finished in 15:09.19 to nab the silver medal. “I stumbled and it cost me the race.”
Kenya’s Alice Nawowuna, who ran the race barefoot, took the bronze in a personal best of 15:17.39.
Emily Sisson of the United States completed a successful 3,000/5,000 double at the Championships by running a 15:48.91 personal best in the longer ever. Her time lowers the previous American High School record of 15:52.88 set by Caitlin Chock in 2004. Running the 5,000 meters as an afterthought following her personal best in the 3K on Monday, the Missouri prep star was relaxed enough to take sixth place.
“I didn’t even know what the national record was, and I am so excited to break it at this big meet,” said Sisson, who attended Parkway Central High School in Chesterfield, Mo. “The crowd was awesome. I didn’t think it could beat Monday’s crowd, but it was great. I was more excited than nervous, because I came in with my focus on the 3000m, and this was just for fun. It was different being able to hang of their pace and not have to do all the work.”