European U23 5000m champion Megan Keith won the senior women’s race at the Cardiff Cross Challenge in convincing fashion on Saturday (11) on the road to the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Brussels on 10 December.
On a muddy and technical course which was not too dissimilar to the course which awaits the runners in Laeken Park next month, Keith ground out a hard pace from the gun and the 21-year-old didn’t relinquish the lead once.
She ended up winning the 6.4km race in 20:35 by almost 100 metres from the Spanish-based Ethiopian Likina Amebew (20:52) and Ethiopian teenager Asmarech Anley third in 20:59.
“It’s always good to focus on something during the winter months and the Euro Cross is a good one to have on the calendar as an aim,” said Keith as reported by Athletics Weekly.
After sprinting to the U20 title at the 2021 SPAR European Cross Country Championships, Keith stepped up into the U23 ranks last year and came away with individual silver behind Italy’s Nadia Battocletti and a gold medal from the team race.
And with Battocletti graduating into the senior ranks this year, Keith - who broke through the 15 minute-barrier for 5000m for the first time this summer - will begin as the heavy favourite to upgrade her individual silver to gold in the Belgian capital next month.
World 10,000m eighth-placer Jess Warner-Judd was fifth in her first race since the track season in 21:29, just ahead of the 18-year-old Dane Sofia Thøgersen - one of the favourites for the U20 title at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships - who was seventh in 21:38.
In the men’s 9.6km which was won by another 18-year-old in Uganda’s Kenneth Kiprop in 28:32, European U23 cross country silver medallist Zakariya Mahamed was the best of the Brits - and the best of the Europeans - in fourth in 29:19.
Elsewhere, the precocious Innes Fitzgerald - who finished fourth in the U20 race at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships last year - won the combined U17/U20 4.45km by more than one minute in 14:50.
At the Cross de Italica in Seville on Sunday (12), world 5000m silver medallist Mohamed Katir from Spain finished fifth in the senior men's 9.918km in 29:29 in a race won by Kenya's Ronald Kwemoi in 29:09.
European U20 1500m and 5000m champion Niels Laros, who looks set to make his debut in the U20 race at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships next month, was 19th in 31:01.
European U20 cross country champion Maria Forero was sixth in the women's 9.918km in 35:06.
Gega captures Balkan cross country title
Albania’s Luiza Gega demonstrated her versatility by winning her fifth Balkan title of the season across three different surfaces at the Balkan Cross Country Championships in Pirdop, Bulgaria on Saturday (11).
Having already won the Balkan 3000m, 5000m, 3000m steeplechase and half marathon titles this year, Gega added the cross country title to her list of accolades, winning the senior women’s 8km title in 27:16 by a clear margin from Bulgaria’s Devora Avramova in 27:45.
There was a home victory in the senior men's 10km for Ivo Balabanov who won in 30:44 - to become the first Bulgarian winner of this title since 1989 - ahead of Türkiye’s Ramazan Bastug in 30:56.
Türkiye also swept both of the senior team titles and topped the medal table in commanding fashion, winning nine of the 12 titles on offer across all groups.