All is set for the 35th Almond Blossom Cross Country Race on Sunday (26) which will also host the Portuguese national Cross Country championships (89th men’s edition, 46th women’s) at this well known Cross Country contest in Açoteias – Albufeira.
The 35th Almond Blossom Cross Country race is an IAAF Cross Country Permit meeting.
It will be a national quest searching for the national champions. The women’s event is really close between members of one team (Maratona) who present in their list the Dulce Félix, the 2011 European Cross Country bronze medalist, reigning national Cross Country and road champion and winner in the 2010 Almond Blossom cross country; Ana Dias, the most international Portuguese ever in Cross Country; and former national individual and team champions Anália Rosa, Inês Monteiro and Leonor Carneiro.
Outside of this team, the European Cross Country Cup team bronze medallist, only the former European Cross Country Cup team champion Sporting C. Braga has some athletes to force the national champions to a more strong pace.
But the women’s international race is wide open with a field that includes Ireland’s Fionnuala Britton, 2011 European Cross Country Champion; Hungarian Aniko Kalovics, winner in Algarve in 2011 and winner in San Sebastian Cross Country in 2010; Kenyan Eunice Jepkorir, the 2008 Olympic Games silver medallist in the 3000m Steeplechase; Russian Gulnara Samitova-Galkina, the 2008 Olympic Games Steeplechase champion; and Latvian Jelena Prokopchuka, winner in Almond Blossom in 2006 and 2009, the 2002 IAAF Half-marathon Championships bronze medallist. All of these women can reach the top step of the podium.
Menjo gunning for fourth victory
Due to budget constraints this year, the men’s event will focus primarily on Portuguese runners with one relevant exception: Kenyan Kiprono Menjo, the winner in this event in three editions - 2008, 2009 and 2011). He is the main candidate to equal his countryman Tom Nyariki as a four-time winner in Algarve Cross Country.
Menjo will be the “referee” of the team struggle between Maratona, the national road race team champion, and Conforlimpa, the fourth place finisher at the European Cross Country Cup team championships.
The Maratona club roster includes Portuguese Youssef El Kalai, the 2010 European Cross Country Championship bronze medallist and 2011 national Cross Country champion; José Rocha, 2011 European Cross Country Championship bronze medallist; and Manuel Damião the 2012 National road race champion. Conforlimpa will be represented by the former national road race champions Licínio Pimentel, Hermano Ferreira and Marco Morgado, the 2011 national cross country silver medallist.
António Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF