The 18th ‘Cross Internacional de Soria’ - the second leg of the IAAF Cross Country Permit Series 2011/12- will take place on Sunday (20).
The race’s home, the ‘Monte Valonsadero’ circuit, is a beautiful forest on the outskirts of Soria well-known for having been 1992 Olympic 1500m champion Fermín Cacho and 1997 and 1999 World Marathon gold medallist Abel Antón’s usual training place for many years.
Undoubtedly, the marquee athletes on Sunday will be the Kenyan pair of Vincent Kiprop Chepkok and Priscah Jeptoo. The former is the reigning World Cross Country bronze medallist and is fresh from a fourth place in last Sunday’s inaugural IAAF permit in Atapuerca. Holder of a 12:51.45 5000m performance, the 21-year-old Kenyan also took World Junior XC silver back on the home soil of Mombasa back in 2007.
Chepkok’s main opposition should come from either Spain’s Ayad Lamdassem or Eritrea’s Adhanon Abraha; after a thrilling sprint finish, they ranked seventh and eighth respectively in Atapuerca but well behind the Kenyan.
As the reigning Spanish XC champion, the Moroccan-born athlete is the main local hope thinking of next month’s European championships, while the 34-year-old Eritrean is a training mate of the multiple World Half Marathon champion Zersenay Tadese. The Madrid-based Abraha finished 18th at last XC Worlds in Punta Umbría last March.
Two 1500 Spanish stars such as Arturo Casado and Manuel Olmedo - the reigning European outdoor and indoor champions respectively - will also be in attendance although the distance seems to be too long for both, especially in the case of Olmedo, a former 800m specialist who trains daily at the ‘Valonsadero’ forest.
In the women’s section Kenya’s Priscah Jeptoo appears as the only and overwhelming favourite. Despite she has only ever raced twice on cross country, the current World Marathon silver medallist proved to be in fine form when finishing third in Atapuerca last weekend.
The 27-year-old Kenyan shouldn’t be pushed by the rest of the field which is headed by Morocco’s Bouchra Chaabi and the Spanish duo of Spain’s Diana Martín and Estela Navascués, 11th in Atapuerca.
Among the most remarkable victors in previous years in Soria are: Ethiopia’s 2000 Olympic 5000m champion Million Wolde (1997), Kenya’s 2001 World 10,000m champion Charles Kamathi (2002), his compatriot Sally Barsosio (1994) who took the 10,000m gold medal at the 1997 Worlds in Athens, Eritrea’s 2007 World Cross Country champion Zersenay Tadese who took top honours in 2004 and the Kenyan pair of 2010 World champion Joseph Ebuya and the three-time World silver medallist Linet Masai, the 2009 winners.
Weather forecasters predict a cloudy day on Sunday with a 50% of rain likelihood and a temperature range between 10ºC and 13ºC by the time of the event.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF