Viewed as a learning experience, 30 Latin American and Caribbean runners from six countries are slated to take part at this Saturday’s 35th IAAF IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Mombasa, Kenya (24 March).
A minor player in the 34-year history of the event, Latin Americans will find it difficult to excel in African territory, where some Europeans and Asians are also expected to be major contenders.
Colombia’s William Naranjo, the 2007 South American cross country champion, will start as the region’s top bets, together with Mexico’s 2003 World Championships 5000m finalist Alejandro Suarez and marathon specialist Maria Elena Valencia.
Naranjo makes his return to the XC Worlds and hopes to improve from a low par performance (111th) at the 2005 edition in St Etienne - St Galmier, France.
Suarez, a 13:13-minute 5000m performer, has been the only Latinoamerican athlete to have finished top 20 at World XC Champs since 1999.
In 2007, the 26-year old will miss the short race, where he finished 13th in 2004, 20th in 2002 and 22nd in 2006. Last year, he was 28th in the long race, leading Mexico to a 9th place in the team standings of both events.
Valencia has focused on the road and will run in Mombasa three weeks after claiming the Mexican marathon title in Torreon, with 2:31:16. She competed in Fukuoka, in 2006, when she finished 31st in the long distance and 42nd in the short one.
Diego Alberto Borrego, the 2006 two-time CAC Junior champion, was the country’s only gold medallist at the 3rd NACAC Cross Country Champs in Clermont (USA) in the first weekend of March.
Borrego, 19, made his international cross country debut at the 2006 Worlds in Fukuoka, with a 47th place in the junior division, over two minutes slower than the winner’s time.
Two-time 2006 CAC Games champion Juan Luis Barrios will be the main absentee. After finishing seventh in Amorebieta, Spain, early in January, Barrios sustained a minor injury and did not travel to Clermont to defend his NACAC senior cross title. Instead, he has focused on the Mexican road circuit.
Other medallists from this year’s South American Champs will run, such as the junior champions: Venezuela’s Luis Alberto Orta and Peru’s Rocio Huillca, as well as Jefferson and Javier Peña of Colombia, who finished second and third in the same race.
Mexico is the only country of the area with athletes registered in all four races. Brazil will only be represented in the senior events and Colombia in the men’s junior and senior runs.
Peru only sent four junior women and Venezuela registered one junior man. Guyana’s Cleveland Forde is the only Caribbean athlete registered.
Although some of its long distance runners have excelled on the track and the road, no Latin American has ever claimed a medal at the World XC Champs.
The reality is that than less than half of the countries of the two IAAF areas stage national XC events, although the number is increasing.
The NACAC Champs started to be held only three years ago. The South American Champs have been contested annually since the 1980’s.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF
Here is the list of the Latin American athletes registered to run in Mombasa:
Women's Senior Race
Rosa Barbosa BRA
Cristina da Silva Isabel BRA
Michele Cristina das Chagas BRA
Maria Lúcia Moraes BRA
Veronica Gutiérrez MEX
Marisol Romero MEX
Maria Elena Valencia MEX
Men's Senior Race
Joilson da Silva BRA
Daniel Freitas BRA
Samoel Girardi BRA
Adriano Meneses BRA
Everton Luduvice Morais BRA
Roberto Oliveira BRA
William Naranjo COL
Oscar Cerón MEX
Sergio Pedraza MEX
Alejandro Suárez MEX
Cleveland Forde GUY
Men's Junior Race
Wesley Mancilla COL
Javier Peña COL
Jefferson Peña COL
Diego Alberto Borrego MEX
José Mireles MEX
Martín Pérez MEX
Luis Alberto Orta VEN
Women’s Junior Race
Julieta Bautista MEX
Belen Chaisa PER
Margot Cjuiro PER
Yoni Ninahuaman PER
Rocio Huillca PER