Americans Brendan Shearn and Jonathan Green finish 15th and 24th.
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EUGENE, Ore. — Uganda’s Joshua Kiprui Cheptegei fulfilled his role as the favorite in the men’s 10,000m here at the IAAF World Junior Championships, earning the first gold medal of the meet at historic Hayward Field Tuesday evening. Entering the contest as the only man to have run under 28:00, Cheptegei ran confidently over the race’s second half, pushing the pace and ultimately prevailing in a sprint battle over Kenya’s Elvis Kipchoge Cheboi, 28:32.86 to 28:35.20.
“Oh it is lovely for my country! It is nice,” said Cheptegei, who became the second Ugandan ever to win gold in the discipline, joining 2004 champion Boniface Kiprop. “[People] will be so happy!”
Shortly after the gun sounded and 38 men bolted from the starting line, it was the Japanese tandem of Keisuke Nakatani and Hazuma Hattori breaking away. Building up a 15-second lead over the main chase pack at 4,400 meters, Nakatani had caused enough notice out front for the primary contenders to be concerned.
“It was a bit amazing. I thought things wouldn’t go like that,” recalled Cheptegei. “But I was confident. Yes, I knew sooner or later I’d get them.”
Deciding to front the charge, Cheptegei was joined by Cheboi, Kenyan Nicholas Mboroto Kosimbei, Eritrean Afewerki Berhane, Ugandan Abdallah Kibet Mande and Ethiopian Yihunilign Adane. It would take over a kilometer to make up the gap, with Cheptegei and followers ultimately taking the outright lead shortly after 6,000 meters. Nakatani would do his best to hold onto the lead group, although he wound up finishing seventh in 29:11.40.
In what appeared to be a fartlek workout among the East Africans, Cheptegei would push the pace only to be matched—and sometimes exceeded—by Cheboi. Of the 14 previous editions of this meeting, Kenyans had claimed gold in the discipline seven times. It was up to Cheptegei to prevent an eighth title going their way.
Cheboi made a valiant effort just before the bell, overtaking Cheptegei and injecting a hard surge, clearly trying to run the wheels off the 18-year-old. Cheptegei wouldn’t fade, however, as he rebounded nicely on the backstretch and regained the pole for good. Finishing with his hands held high in 28:32.86, Cheptegei had earned Uganda’s fourth gold medal at these championships since the meet began in 1986.
“It was good. Nice, nice. I loved it,” said Cheptegei, draped in a Ugandan flag and the gold medal perched around his neck.
Cheptegei said he draws inspiration from Stephen Kiprotich, the 2012 Olympic Marathon and 2013 IAAF World Championships Marathon gold medalist who has been the face of Ugandan distance running in recent years. According to Cheptegei’s manager Jurrie van der Velden, Kiprotich only began running in late 2012/early 2013 after being inspired by Kiprotich’s success at the London Olympics.
“His parents (teachers) where [sic] not too happy about this as they wanted him to get his degree,” wrote Van der Velden in an e-mail message to Race Results Weekly. “However he went on and did really well this February and March in African XC and World Uni XC. He continued training and put his Uni on hold for a while to focus on the 10,000m gold which he won tonight.”
Van der Velden continued: “He’s an intelligent guy from Kapchorwa area (not far from where Stephen grew up).”
Cheboi was clearly pleased with his 28:35.20, runner-up effort.
“I thank God to be here and represent my country and win a silver medal, he said. “I’m so proud. I’m a silver medalist at the world championships.”
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Finishing third was Nicholas Mboroto Kosibei in 28:38.68.
Brendan Shearn of Frackville, Penn., was the top American, taking 15th in 30:24.30. A rising sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, Shearn said he drew motivation from the exuberant crowd at Hayward Field—often times clapping along with the University of Oregon’s Brass & Percussion Ensemble playing music from the infield—and late friend Madison Holleran. Holleran was a freshman runner at Penn before tragically taking her own life last January.
“Just to be able to represent my country and to just run out here was fantastic. It was just amazing,” he said. “I heard the USA chants and it kind of spurred me on to go a little faster, and my coaches told me to do this for Madison, who was a runner on my team who passed away. I was really happy to do this for her and represent for her.”
Fellow American Jonathan Green was 24th in 31:15.69.
The IAAF World Junior Championships continue Wednesday with the women’s 800m semifinals and the 5000m final.