European 1500m champion Sifan Hassan from the Netherlands opened her season with a commanding victory on home-soil at the Warandeloop European Athletics Cross Country Permit Meeting in Tilburg on Sunday.
Last year, Hassan celebrated by scoring a 20-second victory in Tilburg before running away with the under-23 contest at the European Cross-Country Championships in Belgrade.
This time her margin of ascendancy over an all-European field yesterday was even greater at 36 seconds.
Hassan, who is still eligible for the under-23 race at the next two editions of the SPAR European Cross-Country Championships, posted 27:32 for the 8.1km distance with Jennifer Wenth from Austria a distant runner-up in 28:08.
Veerle Dejaeghere, a stalwart on the continental cross country scene, put in another sterling display to comprise the podium in third in 28:12.
Further back, the recognisable names of Wioletta Frankiewicz from Poland and Hilda Kibet from the Netherlands finished seventh and eighth respectively.
Khalid Choukoud took what must be an especially satisfying victory after four runner-up finishes in succession to make it a Dutch double in Tilburg.
The top two positions from last year were reversed, as Choukoud came through to win the 10km race in 30:03 with last year’s champion Tasame Dame second in 30:14.
Roman Romanenko from Ukraine rounded out the podium in third in 30:20.
Cherono rediscovers winning form in Soria
Meanwhile, world 5000m silver medallist Mercy Cherono from Kenya returned to the top of the podium at the 21st edition of the Cross Internacional de Soria.
Cherono was decisively beaten a week ago in Atapuerca but the 23-year-old ran out a comfortable winner in northern Spain to join luminaries such as Sally Barsosio, Vivian Cheruiyot, Linet Masai and Priscah Jeptoo on the roll-of-honour in Soria.
Cherono and compatriot Doris Changeywo moved away from the field on the third of four laps with the former eventually pulling away to win the 8km race by 10 seconds in 27:35.
Catarina Ribeiro from Portugal comprised the podium in 28:10 with Polish steeplechaser Katarzyna Kowalska fourth in 28:20.
In the men’s race, Timothy Toroitich followed in the footsteps of compatriot Dickson Huru to keep the men’s 10km title in Uganda’s hands.
Toroitich held firm in the closing stages to outlast Eritrea’s Teklemariam Medhin to win by three seconds in 29:58 with Kenya’s Emmanuel Bett third in 30:09.
Alemayehu Bezabeh didn’t distinguish himself a week ago in Atapuerca but the reigning European cross country champion will be a factor in Samokov next month if he reproduces this level of performance.
Bezabeh went with the initial break on the second lap and remained in contention for a place on the podium until dropping back on the last two laps to finish fourth in 30:17 and almost one-minute ahead of the next best European.