Ethiopian stars Selemon Barega and Hagos Gebrhiwet are set to return to action at the 62nd edition of the Campaccio Cross Country, an IAAF Permit meeting race, in San Giorgio su Legnano on Sunday (6).
Barega, who came to the fore at age 16 when he captured the world U20 5000m title in 2016, won his first IAAF cross country race two years ago on Italian soil when taking the Cinque Mulini title in San Vittore Olona. That win was a launch pad for the teenager, who went on to win the world U18 3000m title later that year before his notable fifth place finish over 5000m at the World Championships in London.
His outing on Sunday will be his first since his sensational 12:43.02 performance at the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels where he became the fourth fastest 5000m runner of all-time. He’ll be looking to add his name to the prestigious list of Campaccio winners which include Ethiopian legends Haile Gebrselassie (1994), Kenenisa Bekele (2002 and 2004) and more recently Muktar Edris (2013 and 2017).
Barega will face off against compatriot Gebrhiwet for the third time in his career. Their first meeting came at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018 where Barega was second and Gebrhiwet fourth in the 3000m, and their second in Brussels where Gebrhiwet finished behind Barega in 12:45.82 to become history’s fifth fastest man.
Gebrhiwet, 24, the 2016 Olympic 5000m bronze medallist, has also achieved success in cross country, taking world U20 gold in 2013 and finishing fourth as a senior in 2015.
The Kenyan challenge will be led by steeplechase standout Benjamin Kigen who beat Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto in the Eugene leg of the Diamond League last year.
Another contender for a top-three spot is Turkey’s Aras Kaya, the 2016 European Cross Country champion who finished third at the continental championships in Tilburg last month.
Another steeplechase specialist in the field is 19-year-old Ugandan Albert Chemutai, who finished fourth at the 2018 World U20 Championships and 10th at the World Championships in London at the age of 17.
Italian hopes will be carried by Yeman Crippa and Yohanes Chiappinelli, medallists on the track at last summer’s European Championships, and Daniele Meucci, the 2014 European marathon champion.
Crippa, a four-time European cross country medallist at U20 and U23 levels, finished sixth in his first senior appearance last month, helping Italy to team bronze. Crippa finished sixth in the 2018 edition of the Campaccio. Chiappinelli, the European steeplechase bronze medallist, has two European cross country U20 team medals o his credit. Meucci, who finished 11th in Tilburg, won the We Run Rome 10km on New Year’s Eve, beating last year’s Campaccio winner James Kibet.
Can leads women's field
The favourite in the women’s race is Turkey’s Yasemin Can, who last month won her third consecutive European Cross Country title.
Can will face Kenyan Norah Jeruto Tanui, a sub-nine minute steeplechase runner. Last January Jeruto won the Vallagarina Cross Country in Rovereto and finished fourth at the Cinque Mulini in San Vittore Olona.
Meanwhile 19-year-old Kenyan Gloria Kite will be looking to continue her solid IAAF Cross Country Permit series season after finishing first in Soria, second in Alcobendas and fourth in Atapuerca. Two more emerging runners are Uganda’s Peruth Chemutai and Bahrain’s Winfred Mutile Yavi, who finished second and third, respectively, in the steeplechase at last summer’s World U20 Championships.
The Italian challenge is led by 18-year-old Nadia Battocletti who won the European U20 title in Tilburg, the first Italian female runner at any level to win a continental cross country gold medal. In her previous appearances at Campaccio, Battocletti won the U18 race in 2017 and was 11th in the senior race last year.
Italian marathoner Sara Dossena, a former triathlete who was sixth at the 2017 New York Marathon and sixth over the distance at last summer’s European Championships, is in the field as well, mainly to prepare for a spring marathon.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF