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Bibic and Lahti dominate in Tilburg on the road to the European Cross

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  • Bibic and Lahti dominate in Tilburg on the road to the European Cross

Serbia’s Elzan Bibic and Sweden’s Sarah Lahti strode to comfortable victories at the Warandecross in Tilburg on Sunday (27), the last major continental cross country fixture before the SPAR European Cross Country Championships on 11 December.

The Warandecross was the fifth and final World Athletics Cross Country Tour event with Silver-label status in Europe for the 2022-23 season and also served as the venue for this year’s Dutch Cross Country Championships.

On the road to Piemonte-La Mandria Park, Bibic won the senior men’s 10km in 29:26. He defeated a field that was composed predominantly of Dutch athletes with Stan Niesten and Filmon Tesfu finishing second and third respectively and both timed at 29:34.

Already a medallist in the U20 and U23 race at the European Cross Country Championships, Bibic will be making his debut in the senior race in La Mandria Park next month. 

Bibic won U20 bronze behind Jakob Ingebrigtsen in Tilburg in 2018 - albeit at a different venue to the one which is traditionally used for the Warandecross which dates back to 1956 in terms of antiquity - before graduating to U23 silver behind France’s Jimmy Gressier in 2019. 

In the senior women’s race, Sarah Lahti from Sweden followed up her victory from Mol at the end of last month with another significant European victory. Lahti won by an even greater margin than Bibic, covering the 8km in 26:40 ahead of Silke Jonkman (26:56) and Diane Van Es (27:07).

Lahti is also targeting the European Cross Country Championships next month where the Swedes will also be strong contenders for a team medal. The Swedish team for the senior women's race also includes reigning individual silver medallist Meraf Bahta and Samrawit Mengsteab, the surprise bronze medal at the 2019 edition of the European Cross Country Championships in Lisbon.

There was also keen interest in the men’s U20 6km which featured three of Europe’s brightest distance running prospects including 17-year-old Niels Laros, the Dutch phenomenon who broke the European U18 bests at 1500m and 3000m this summer and won gold medals in both events at the European Athletics U18 Championships in Jerusalem.

However, the youngest of the triumvirate had to settle for third in 18:18 behind Norway’s European U20 10,000m record-holder Abdullahi Dahir Rabi who won by two seconds from Denmark’s Joel Ibler Lillesø - 18:05 to 18:07.

Rabi and Lillesø won silver and bronze respectively in the U20 race in Fingal-Dublin last year and will be looking to ameliorate their positions in their final year of eligibility before they progress into the U23 ranks in 2023.

Hungary’s Greta Varga, who finished seventh in the U20 race at the European Cross Country Championships at the age of 15, was the most decisive winner of the programme. Now 18, Varga won the U20 4.3km in 14:55 by more than half-a-minute from Dione Schipper in 15:29.

Full results here.

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