Bibic storms to U20 title at the Balkan Cross Country Championships

Elzan Bibic
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Serbia's Elzan Bibic took a commanding win in the U20 race at the Balkan Cross County Championships in Botosani

If Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen is going to face any opposition in the U20 race at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Tilburg on 9 December, it might come from Serbia’s Elzan Bibic.

Bibic ended his track season with lifetime bests over 1500m (3:37.79) and 3000m (7:51.51) and the 19-year-old transferred this form onto the softer terrain, winning the U20 title at the Balkan Cross Country Championships in Botosani, Romania on Sunday (4).

Bibic covered the 6km distance in 16:40, winning by nearly one minute from Romania’s Adrian Garcea (17:27) who was sixth in the U20 race at the 2017 European Cross Country Championships.

Bibic won the inaugural 3000m title at the European U18 Championships in Tbilisi, Georgia in 2016 and was a creditable sixth in the 1500m at the World U20 Championships in Tampere, Finland this summer.

His record isn’t quite as impressive at cross country but Bibic will surely improve on his 27th-place finish from 2016, his best appearance in his three showings in the U20 race at the European Cross Country Championships.

There was delight for the hosts in the senior women’s 8km as Paula Todoran led a clean sweep, winning in 26:36 ahead of Roxana Barca (26:40) and Claudia Prisecaru (27:02). Romania won four gold medals and fourteen in total.

But Turkey topped the medal table courtesy of six gold medals, and eleven in total. Cihat Ulus won the senior men’s 10km in 29:26 ahead of Bulgarian steeplechase specialist Mitko Tsenov in 29:36 and also led Turkey to the team title.

Portugal’s Mariana Machado has been pre-selected for the U20 team at the European Cross Country Championships but the 17-year-old took the plaudits in the senior women’s 8.15km at the Cross Nacional Ciudad de Palencia Mariano Haro in Palencia, Spain on Sunday.

Machado, who was fourth in the 1500m at the World U20 Championships, won the senior women’s 8.15km in 29:51 ahead of Cristina Jordan in 29:54. Houssame Benabbou won the senior men’s 8.95km in 28:40.

At the Belarusian Cross Country Championships, Nina Savina - who was part of Belarus’ gold medal-winning team in the marathon team race at the European Championships in Berlin - won the senior women’s 6km in 20:40. Siarhei Platonau won the senior men’s 8km in 24:22.