Men's under-23 preview

Men's Under-23 Preview
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The under-23 race at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships last year in Belgrade was eventually won by Belgium's Pieter-Jan Hannes.

Hawkins looking for an upgrade in Samokov

Callum Hawkins finished seventh in the under-23 race at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Belgrade a year ago and with his British team-mate Luke Caldwell two spots ahead of him, the pair were influential in helping their nation take the team title.

Hawkins, 22, is back in the same event in Samokov, and he is there looking to do even better in the individual race, backed with the encouragement of making the British squad after beating two athletes who will line up in the senior event on Sunday.

At the official British trials in Liverpool, Hawkins won in 29:26 over the 9.8km course with his fellow Scotsman Andrew Butchart, 23, in second, and Ross Millington, 25, in third.

Click through to see Hawkins' reaction after his win in Liverpool.

While the men’s under-23 race is shorter this weekend, Hawkins showed his speed endurance at the trials and should finish higher in the field than in Belgrade.

Speaking with the BBC, Hawkins stressed the priority he has put on the SPAR European Cross Country Championships.

He said: "That has been my focus since the Commonwealth Games and hopefully I can sneak a medal in Bulgaria. I have the engine to do it."

The athletes will run one short lap of 610m and five long laps of 1,455m in a race of just under 8km which brings together a collection of the leading under-23s who feature prominently in the European 10km rankings.

Hawkins is Europe’s No. 1 for his age over that distance with 29:23 from Leeds last month and the man just behind him, Hungary’s Laszlo Gregor, with 29:35 from September, is one to watch out for too.

The favourite is likely to be the biggest hope for a home medal on Sunday, and possibly a gold, in Mitko Tsenov, the silver medallist from Belgrade, who also won silver in the junior race in Budapest the previous year.

It is a strong field and while Norway’s Marius Oyre Vedvik ran 29:43 for 10km in April, both Denmark’s Thijs Nijhuis and Youssef Mekdafou of France, have produced times of 29:45 more recently, and the trio’s ability to go under 30 minutes for this distance puts them in medal contention on Sunday.

Belgium’s Isaac Kimeli and Russia’s Mikhail Strelkov, last year's junior silver and bronze medallists respectively, now move up to this new level while Spain has a strong squad that includes Gabriel Navarro, the European Athletics U23 10,000m champion from Tampere in 2013, who stepped up from winning won gold in the same distance at the European Athletics Junior Championships in Tallinn in 2011. 

START TIME: 11:16 am CET.