Anna Emilie Moller won the U23 title at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships last December and the Dane is heading back to Tilburg in search of more success on Sunday (24) in one of the oldest fixtures on the European cross country calendar.
The city will be familiar to Moller but whereas last year’s European Cross Country Championships were held at the Beekse Bergen Safari Park, the 61st edition of the Warandecross, a European Athletics Cross Country Permit Meeting, will return to its regular home at ‘de Oude Warande’ near Tilburg University.
But regardless of the course and the setting, Moller will begin as the resounding favourite. After winning the U23 title in Tilburg in December, Moller was the first European finisher in the senior women’s race at the World Cross Country Championships in Aarhus in March when she finished 15th and she opened her cross country campaign by successfully defending her Nordic title in Heinola, Finland.
Moller translated her cross country form to the track last summer and her exploits were such that she was shortlisted for the women’s Rising Star accolade. Moller won gold medals in both the 3000m steeplechase (9:27.31) and 5000m (15:07.70) at the European U23 Championships and she took more than 10 seconds off her European U23 record in the 3000m steeplechase at the IAAF World Athletics Championships, improving to 9:18.92 in the heats and then 9:13.46 in the final.
Moller will face opposition in the senior women’s 8km from two athletes who finished inside the top-15 in the senior women’s race at last year’s European Cross Country Championships - Maureen Koster from the Netherlands and Poland’s Anna Gosk who finished 11th and 14th respectively - and Italy’s reigning European U20 cross country champion Nadia Battocletti.
The senior men’s 10km features the second and third-place finishers from last year - Russia’s Rinas Akhmadiyev and Sweden’s Napoleon Solomon. The latter did win the Warandecross in 2017 which was held on the course which will be used for Sunday’s race.
With the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Lisbon just over a fortnight away on 8 December, the Warandecross will also be a significant race in the context of team selection. The Dutch contingent is headed by Michel Butter and Khalid Choukoud, who finished fifth and seventh in this race last year, and are both former winners of this race.
The Warandecross programme spans three days, beginning with the University Night Run on Friday followed by recreational events on the Saturday before the elite races take place on the Sunday.