This winter’s European Athletics Cross Country Permit Meeting series moved on to France and Spain on Sunday with the traditional fixtures of the Cross L’Acier in the town of Leffrinckoucke on the northern French coast and the Campo a Través Internacional de Soria in the Castilla-Leon region on Sunday.
Victories in the senior races at both events went to runners from East Africa who dominate cross country running but there was as outstanding second place in the Soria women’s race over 8000m by local runner Nuria Lugueros to clinch her first appearance at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships next month.
Kenya’s 2017 IAAF World Cross Country Championships silver medallist Alice Aprot romped away to win in 26:34 but Lugueros continued her fine start to the winter, after a good win in another strong Spanish race in Palencia earlier this month, finish as the best European in 27:22 ahead of a large group of seasoned Spanish internationals.
"Initially being in the European championships team was not a goal for this winter, just to try and keep up with the best and to recover some of the excitement of running after a bittersweet year. The injury that was more complicated than expected but, after the good result of the first race (in Palencia), my target changed to trying to be in Samorin," commented Lugueros, reflecting on the fact that an injury to her left knee meant she did not race on the track at all during the summer of 2017.
"Next year, I hope to return to the track and want to run in the European 10,000m Cup and then try to qualify for the European Athletics Championships in Berlin," she added.
Lugueros just edged out her fellow Spaniard María José Pérez, who finished third one second further back, but who will also be in the Spanish team going to Samorin.
In the men’s race over 10,000m, Spain’s two-time European cross country championships silver medallist Ayad Lamdassem lead home the European contingent in fifth place in 29:41 with his compatriot Daniel Mateo one place and one second further back. With the race acting as a selection event or the SPAR European Cross Country Championships, the pair were also selected for Samorin.
Uganda’s phenomenal teenage talent and reigning world U20 cross country champion Jacob Kiplimo won in 28:37.
The Soria cross country meeting, held in unseasonably warm and dry conditions, also saw an innovative short cross country mixed race over 1500m to select the Spanish team for the mixed relay in Samorin.
Victor Ruiz, better known as a steeplechaser, won in 3:55 to secure his second trip to the SPAR European Cross Country Championships after finishing a rather modest 81st in the U20 race six years ago in 2011.
Second in Soria in 3:57 and so getting the second male spot in the relay team was Jesus Gomez. The female places will be taken by Solange Pereira and Esther Guerrero, who finished 29th and 30th in Soria in 4:32 and 4:35 respectively.
Bahrain’s Ethiopian-born Yemataw Balew and Kenya’s Margaret Chelimo took the honours in Leffrinckoucke.
It was a tough day for European runners in the men’s 10,270m race with France’s Hicham Briki the first man from the old continent to cross the line in 14th place as East African or Bahraini runners took the first 13 places.
The scenario was similar but slightly better in the women’s 6970m race with France’s Claire Perraux the first European home in ninth place.