Junior previews

Junior Previews
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The SPAR European Cross Country Championships will start off at 9:30 am CET with the women's junior race in Samokov on Sunday.

Chiappinelli ready for whatever faces him

Whether it is the slippery surface, the unexpected bump in the grass or the downward climb followed by the quick charge up a hill, cross country running can be quite a challenge.

But three of the junior men seeking success in Samokov on Sunday at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships know all about overcoming barriers in races because they are Europe’s leading young 3000m steeplechasers.

Italy’s Yohanes Chiappinelli, 17, Patrick Karl, 18, of Germany, and Frenchman Mehdi Belhadj, 19, have had a fine year on the track and now they look to end it among the favourites for the junior men’s crown in Bulgaria.

Chiappinelli ran a personal best of 8:43.18 as he finished sixth in the steeplechase final at the IAAF Word Junior Championships in Eugene in July, a race where Karl was 12th in 9:03.16 having run 8:47.20 to qualify from his heat with Belhadj 14th in 9:13.82.

Here's Chiappinelli competing in Eugene:

They are all part of full junior squads who will be in the running for the team title which last year was won by France, now led by Belhadj who is third in those steeplechase rankings with 8:49.04.

It could all be down to who handles the surface the best.

France were champions by just three points in 2013 with 48 from Russia with Italy in third with 55 and it could be another close competition with Bulgaria fielding four athletes - Ivo Balabanov, Georgi Gergov, Aleks Vasilev and Aleksandar Yatovski - as they look to sneak a medal.

DISTANCE: 6.2km (three short laps, and three long laps).

START TIME: 10.48am (local time).

Tuna has the chance to be the big fish 

At 19, and in what will be her last appearance at this level, Turkey’s Emine Hatun Tuna has the opportunity to land a major title in the opening race at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Samokov on Sunday.

Tuna was ninth last year as Great Britain’s Emelia Gorecka won the crown, for the second time in three years, in 13:06. She is now in the under-23 event and Tuna will probably be quite pleased.

One of Tuna’s finest hours came when she ran a personal best time of 9:25.83 to win silver in the 3000m at the European Athletics Junior Championships in Rieti in 2013 - as Gorecka won gold in 9:12.53.

The Briton is quite an act to follow and one runner who will be trying is Jessica Judd, 19, who has had a superb year, finishing fourth in the 800m at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and then seven in the final at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich.

She won the British under-20 trials for Samokov in Liverpool by 11 seconds.

As with the men, Bulgaria have a full team in this race, with Alena Barisenka, Ivana Adzhova, Veselina Alinska and Hristiyana Braykova carrying the national colours.

Spain, France, Ireland and Italy are also bringing strong teams for a race which should set off the championships in fine style.

DISTANCE: 4.1km (two short laps, and two long laps).

START TIME: 9:30 am CET.