Turkish delight with nine golds at the Balkan Cross Country Championships

cross country runners
Getty Images

cross country runners

What a day it proved to be for Turkey as the host nation dominated the 61st Balkan Cross Country Championships, held in persistent rain on a twisting and slippery woodland circuit in Canakkale on Saturday.

With places at stake for the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in three weeks’ time, Turkey won nine of the 12 gold medals up for grabs from the individual and team competitions.

Turkey have an outstanding record in recent years at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships, having won the senior men’s individual title on the last three occasions, and Sedat Gönen will alongside his compatriots chasing glory in Samorin, Slovakia, on 10 December next month after taking the regional crown.

Gönen, now 29, will be celebrating his sixth SPAR European Cross Country Championship appearance but his first since 2010 and led a Turkish sweep of the medals over 10,000m as he won in 33:41.

Sedat Gönen (99) leading the senior men's race at the 2017 Balkan Cross Country Championships
Sedat Gönen (99) leading the senior men's race at the 2017 Balkan Cross Country Championships

Following Guden home, 2016 Balkan champion Ramazan Ozdemir and Demir Alper, were second and third in 33:42 and 34:08 respectively. The trio helped Turkey take the men’s team gold from Bulgaria and Romania. 

It was a similar story in the men’s U23 and U20 races.

Over 8000m, Turgay Bayram won 27:14 as Turkey won U23 team gold while Ramazan Barbaros led his nation to gold in the U20 6000m event in 19:30.

Romania were the main challengers to Turkey’s overriding success with Roxana Birca, third 12 months ago in Serbia, taking the women’s senior title over 8000m as she won in 30:11. Turkey’s Eytemis Sevilay added to her burgeoning silver medal collection when she was second for the second consecutive year – having also been second in the 2015 U23 race – coming home in 30:17 with fellow Turkish runner Ozlem Kaya third in 30:26.

There was further gold for Romania in the women’s U23 6000m race with Andreea Piscu, fourth last year, winning in 22:34 from Turkey’s Tubay Erdal, who was ten seconds in arrears in 22:44. However, Erdal led Turkey to the team gold medals ahead of Romania.

Andreea Piscu (37) leads the U23 men's race at the 2017 Balkan Cross Country Championships
Andreea Piscu (37) leads the U23 men's race at the 2017 Balkan Cross Country Championships

Turkey took both the individual and team titles in the women’s U20 race over 4000m as Turkey’s Pinar Demirtas, also fourth in 2016, won in 14:38.

The x-bionic sphere will be the venue for the SPAR European Cross Country Championships and more than 450 runners tested the course in Samorin at the Open Slovak Championships on Sunday.

Victory in the men’s 9.93km senior race went to Hungary’s Martin Papai in 31:02 as Slovakia’s Peter Durec won his fourth national title, and secured his return to Samorin as part of the Slovakian team in three weeks’ time, bu finishing just one second behind the winner.

Slovakian mountain runner Silvia Schwaiger won the women’s 8060m race in 29:34 while Jozef Repcik, a familiar face in major championship 800m races, extended his range and won the men’s 4120m race in 12:42 while Kristina Hegedusova took the women’s race over the same distance in 15:25.

There was more success for Hungary in the men’s 5700m U20 race as 17-year-old talent Levente Szemerei won in 17:59, with Miroslav Borovka second in 18:22 to secure his Samorin spot for Slovakia.

Elsewhere in Europe, Spain had both the senior winners at the Cross Nacional de Toledo thanks to triumphs from Angel Ronco in the men’s 9000m race and Marta Silvestre in the women’s 7400m event.

In Montauban, France had a double success on home soil in the 13th Cross Rene Arcuset as Jimmy Gressier won over 8310m in 25:06 and in the women’s 5.98km the well-known French international Emma Oudiou took the honours in 20:52.