Tadese Worku in action in Seville (© Organisers)
The Cross Internacional de Italica in Santiponce on the outskirts of the Spanish city of Seville – the fifth Gold standard meeting in the current World Athletics Cross Country Tour – always boasts a mouth-watering line-up, and this year’s race on Sunday (21) is no exception.
The men’s 10,092m contest features one of the most promising distance runners, Ethiopia’s Tadese Worku, who was the last victor here in January 2020. The 19-year-old is the current world U20 cross country and 3000m champion, has recently shown impressive form with a 26:56 clocking at a 10km road race in Herzogenaurach and should be tipped as one of the favourites. He will be joined by his fellow Ethiopian Nibret Melak, a 12:54.22 5000m performer this year.
They will face stiff opposition from the whole Atapuerca podium, as Eritrea’s Aron Kifle, Burundi’s Rodrigue Kwizera and Uganda’s Joel Ayeko will also be in contention. The latter’s compatriot Thomas Ayeko, Burundi’s Thierry Ndikumwenayo and Eritrea’s Yemane Hailesilassie should also rank in the top 10 on Sunday.
Spanish hopes rest on the European U23 cross country bronze medallist Abdessamad Oukhelfen. The 22-year-old has proven to be in fine form at this early stage of the season, with third and fifth-place finishes in San Sebastian and Atapuerca respectively. Watch out too for Carlos Mayo, who also made the top 10 in Atapuerca and will be aiming to match that feat here.
Eritrea’s Rahel Daniel Ghebreneyohannes managed an upset victory in Atapuerca last weekend, defeating a mighty Kenyan armada featuring Beatrice Chebet, Margaret Chelimo and Norah Jeruto who were second, third and fourth-place finishers respectively there following a tight and intriguing finish. The four of them will clash again over 7910m on Sunday and the battle for the win promises to be epic.
Reportedly, the unheralded Eritrean competed in Atapuerca wearing two right shoes, but despite that disadvantage she got the better of a world-class line-up and will be eager to prove her victory was no fluke.
Daniel’s top performance is a 14:55.56 5000m clocking from Hengelo last June, but she couldn’t advance to the final at the Tokyo Olympics. Meanwhile, the Kenyan triumvirate holds impressive backgrounds. While Chelimo is the reigning world 5000m silver medallist and defends her victory in Santiponce last year, Jeruto boasts the third fastest ever time in the 3000m steeplechase thanks to a 8:53.65 performance. As for Chebet, the 2018 world U20 5000m champion was runner-up behind Chelimo in 2020 and narrowly beat Chelimo and Jeruto in Atapuerca.
Another Kenyan, Eva Cherono, was eighth at the 2019 World Cross Country Championships and will make her second outing this autumn after a winning 19:17 clocking over four miles in Groningen last month.
To add more quality to Sunday’s field, organisers also announced the late addition of Ethiopia’s Senbere Teferi. The 26-year-old came sixth at the Tokyo Olympics over 5000m and bettered her lifetime best for the distance to an impressive 14:15.24 this season. Teferi will be aiming to regain her 2017 win here and seems ready to do so after her 14:29 overwhelming victory and outright women's world 5km record of 14:29 in Herzogenaurach in September.
The most remarkable Europeans on show will be Turkey’s Yasemin Can and Italy’s Nadia Battocletti; the former having claimed four consecutive European cross country titles and the latter having finished just outside the top 10 in Atapuerca.
Previous winners in Santiponce include Kenenisa Bekele (2003, 2004 and 2007), Fernando Mamede (1984 and 1985), Paul Kipkoech (1987 and 1988), Paul Tergat (1998 and 1999), Moses Kipsiro (2008 and 2009), Leonard Komon (2010 and 2011), Linet Masai (2010 and 2012) and Paula Radcliffe (2001), among others.
Weather forecasters predict a rainy day and a temperature of 18ºC by the time of the event.
Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics