No less than 77 runners (37 men and 40 women) from 19 European Athletics Member Federations are entered to contest this year’s European 10,000m Cup, which takes place in the Belarusian capital of Minsk on Saturday 10 June.
The most notable name among the men’s entries is, without doubt, Turkey’s Aras Kaya.
Kaya won at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships last December and is the only man in the field to have run under 28 minutes, his best of 27:48.53 being set two years ago.
His form over shorter distances in recent months, including a disappointing 12th place in the Belgrade 2017 European Athletics Indoor Championships 3000m, hasn’t been particularly impressive but this will be his longest race since his impressive win in Chia and although he still considers himself a steeplechaser, this could be where his future lies.
Potentially, Kaya’s main rival in Minsk could be a man who has also made the transition from the steeplechase to longer distances on the track.
Spain’s Antonio Abadia was the European U20 3000m steeplechase champion but left the barriers behind five years ago and his subsequent honours have included third place in last summer’s European Athletics Championships 10,000m.
Abadia goes to Minsk as the second fastest man among the entries with 28:07.14 to his name, which he ran when winning the Iberian title last year, and he has a sub-28 minutes target in mind for the Cup.
Also in the Spanish team is the talented Carlos Mayo, the European cross country U23 silver medallist in 2015 and 2016.
Having won the European U23 5000m bronze two years ago when he was only 20, Mayo’s performance in Minsk could provide a pointer to the direction in which his ambitions will lie at the Bydgoszcz 2017 European Athletics U23 Championships next month.
Last year’s team winners Italy – which again includes Stefano La Rosa who has finished four times in the top six in the last five years – send a strong squad to defend their title and the Azzurri have a good chance to win for a third consecutive year with only Spain, at least on paper, looking as though they have similar strength in depth.
In the women’s race, four previous winners have been entered: Turkey’s defending champion Esma Ademir, Germany’s two-time winner Sabrina Mokenhaupt and Portugal’s Inês Monteiro and Sara Moreira both of whom, like Mockenhaupt, have won the title on two previous occasions.
Mockenhaupt, Monteiro, Moreira and Portugal’s Jessica Augusto are the four women in the field who have run under 32 minutes in their careers – and less than seven seconds covers their personal bests – making them some of the main favourites for the medals.
However, local interested will be stirred by the presence of Volha Mazuronak, who will run her first 10,000m on the track since 2014.
Having been one of the world’s top U20 race walkers a decade ago, the 28-year-old switched to running in 2011 and has never looked back.
Mazuronak was the first European finisher in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games marathon, where she finished fifth, and the fastest woman in Europe last year with a personal best of 2:23:54 from the London Marathon.
The European 10,000m Cup forms a vital part of Mazuronak's preparations for the IAAF World Championships in London and she will also be aiming to make an improvement on her 10,000m lifetime best of 32:31.15, set at the 2014 European Athletics Championships in Zurich, as well as put the host nation on the podium.
The presence of Monteiro, Moreira and Augusto makes Portugal to clear favourites to take the team gold they last won in 2014 but Great Britain have sent a team with good depth to defend the title they have won at the last two editions. Claire Duck, Louise Small and Katrina Wootton all have the potential to run personal best times in Minsk.