One week after just missing out on an individual medal when finishing fourth at the European Cross Country Championships in the French town of Hyeres, Fionnuala McCormack travelled north and claimed her first victory at the Iris Lotto CrossCup in Brussels on Sunday (20).
McCormack, better known by her maiden name of Britton, has four times finished second or third in this race but the 31-year-old ground out a long-awaited victory over a predominantly continental field staged near the Royal Palace of Laeken.
The distance of 6km might not have particularly suited the Irish runner and two-time former European cross country champion who has recently made the move up to the marathon but McCormack still made her strength show in the women’s senior race.
McCormack stopped the clock at 20:07, finishing seven seconds ahead of Maureen Koster from the Netherlands, who enjoyed a breakthrough on the track this summer climaxing with a 3:59.79 PB for 1500m at the IAAF Diamond League in Monaco.
Little-known Ethiopian Derartu Debela Delesa finished third in 20:23, while recently crowned European under 23 cross country champion Louise Carton was the leading Belgian finisher in fourth in 20:27.
Belgian-based Ethiopian Dame Tasama scored one of the biggest wins of his career with a comprehensive victory in the men’s senior 10.5km.
Tasama, who has been a familiar figure on the Belgian distance running circuit for a decade, clocked 32:19 for the distance with Kenya’s Patrick Ereng a distant second in 32:44.
“I am not at full fitness because I am coming back from a period of illness during which I had an operation for tuberculosis last October,” reflected Tasama.
After missing the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 due to injury, former European junior cross country champion Jeroen D’Hoedt finished third on home soil in 32:47.
Ayalew claims back-to-back wins in Spain
Aweke Ayalew, from Bahrain, beat of Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola at the 36th edition of the Cross Internacional de Venta de Banos on Sunday.
Both runners have been in good cross country form this winter but fresh from a victory in Yecla last weekend, Ayalew had the superior pace at the end of the senior men’s 10.5km to claim victory by one second in 32:18.
Tola, who has a best time of 2:06:17 for the marathon, had to settle for second with local star Javier Guerra a distant third in 33:07.
The women’s senior 7km was a much more clear-cut encounter with Ethiopia’s 2014 world junior 5000m champion Alemitu Haroye winning in 24:13 and by 40 seconds from Spain’s Trihas Gebre.
In doing so, Haroye became the first Ethiopian winner of the women’s race in Venta de Banos since 2006 and joins the likes of Berhane Adere and Gelete Burka on the roll-of-honour.
Gebre had a disappointing run at the European Cross Country Championships when she faded badly to 11th after trying to stay with Sifan Hassan’s ferocious early pace but the 25-year-old finished a clear second with Portugal’s Catarina Ribeiro a further 42 seconds back in third.
Chepkoech extends winning streak in Machakos
Caroline Chepkoech has been the in-form athlete on the Kenyan cross country circuit in recent weeks and the 21-year-old claimed her third victory of the AK/KCB Series in Machakos on Saturday (19).
Chepkoech defeated the strongest field she has faced this season by a considerable margin in the senior women’s 10km held at the Machakos Teachers Training College, which staged the fifth leg of the domestic series.
The former African junior cross country champion broke the tape in 36:26 to defeat Margaret Chelimo, who made the Kenyan team for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang this year, by 21 seconds.
Former IAAF world youth 1500m champion Sheila Chepkirui completed the podium in 37:07 while renowned steeplechaser Virginia Nyambura opened her season with a sixth-place finish in 37:33.
There was a small upset in the senior men’s 10km as Stephen Arita, a runner with little international experience, claimed his first victory of the domestic series in 32:23.
Arita, who just missed out on the medals over 5000m and 10,000m at the World Military Games in South Korea this summer, waited until the final kilometre to make his move before defeating Franklin Ngelel (32:30) and Dominic Kiptarus (32:35).
“I wanted to break off early but I thought it would be counterproductive so I stuck with pack to wait for the ideal moment,” the winner told local reporters.
Sandra Chebet notched up another win in the junior women’s 6km in 21:25 while Nicholas Kosimbei claimed victory in the junior men’s 8km in 25:39.
Steven Mills for the IAAF