News23 Dec 2021

2021 review: cross country


Likina Amebaw Ayel, Lucy Mawia Muli and Francine Niyomukunzi at the Cross Internacional de Soria (© Cross Internacional de Soria)

As the year draws to a close, we look back at the key moments of 2021 in each area of the sport.

The series continues with a review of cross country action and will be followed over the coming days by reviews of other event groups.

Women’s cross country

Current World Athletics Cross Country Tour standings

1 Lucy Mawia 🇰🇪 KEN 3695 points (Soria, Atapuerca and Alcobendas)
2 Likina Amebaw 🇪🇹 ETH 3640 points (Soria, Atapuerca and Venta de Banos)
3 Francine Niyomukunzi 🇧🇮 BDI 3610 points (Amorebieta-Etxano, Soria and Atapuerca)
4 Rosalia Tarraga 🇪🇸 ESP 3485 points (Amorebieta-Etxano, Soria and Alcobendas)
5 Lidia Campo 🇪🇸 ESP 3480 points (Amorebieta-Etxano, Soria and Alcobendas)

Full standings

World rankings

1 Likina Amebaw 🇪🇹 ETH 1253
2 Lucy Mawia 🇰🇪 KEN 1231
3 Dolshi Tesfu 🇪🇷 ERI 1226
4 Blanca Fernandez 🇪🇸 ESP 1206
5 Francine Niyomukunzi 🇧🇮 BDI 1203

Full rankings

Major winners

European: Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal 🇳🇴 NOR
NCAA: Whittni Orton 🇺🇸 USA
All other major international cross-country championships did not take place in 2021

Season at a glance

In the first few months of 2021, some of the big traditional international cross-country events found space on the calendar after the pandemic forced their postponement.

Ethiopia's Tsehay Gemechu was the stand-out performer at two of those meets. The 2019 World Championships 5000m fourth-place finisher triumphed at the Campaccio meeting in March, beating Kenya's Lilian Rengeruk, and was victorious again a week later at the Cinque Mulini.

Her compatriot Likina Ameba made it an Ethiopian triple when winning in Albufeira in mid-Aprll, beating a largely Spanish and Portuguese field.

Following the outdoor track and field season, the current revamped and renamed World Athletics Cross Country Tour kicked off in September, with the first top-tier Gold level meeting being the Cardiff Cross Challenge on 16 October.

The women’s winner in Cardiff was Britain’s Charlotte Arter and from there the Tour moved on to Spain – with wins shared between Kenya’s Lucy Mawia, Norah Jeruto and Edinah Jebitok; Eritrea’s Rahel Daniel and Dolshi Tesfu; and Burundi's Francine Niyomukunzi – and the USA, where Allie Buchalski triumphed.

With the wins widely shared, it’s Amebaw who leads the world rankings ahead of Mawia, with her consistency including second place finishes behind Mawia in Soria and Jebitok in Venta de Banos.

In the World Cross Country Tour standings, the top two switch as Amebaw is in top spot ahead of Mawia, with Amorebieta winner Niyomukunzi in third.

Europe was the only area to hold a continental championships, with Norway’s Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal claiming the crown ahead of Sweden’s Meraf Bahta and Germany’s Alina Reh. 

The U23 title was won by Italy’s Nadia Battocletti, while Britain’s Megan Keith won the U20 race.



Men’s cross country

Current World Athletics Cross Country Tour standings

1 Rodrigue Kwizera 🇧🇮 BDI 3820 points (Soria, Atapuerca and Seville)
2 Thomas Ayeko 🇺🇬 UGA 3720 points (Soria, Atapuerca and Alcobendas)
3 Joel Ayeko 🇺🇬 UGA 3700 points (Amorebieta-Etxano, Soria and Atapuerca)
4 Abdessamad Oukhelfen 🇪🇸 ESP 3590 points (San Sebastian, Atapuerca and Alcobendas)
5 Yemane Haileselassie 🇪🇷 ERI 3570 points (Amorebieta-Etxano, Soria and Atapuerca)

Full standings

World rankings

1 Rodrigue Kwizera 🇧🇮 BDI 1280
2 Thomas Ayeko 🇺🇬 UGA 1240
3 Joel Ayeko 🇺🇬 UGA 1233
4 Abdessamad Oukhelfen 🇪🇸 ESP 1216
5 Carlos Mayo 🇪🇸 ESP 1215

Full rankings

Major winners

European: Jakob Ingebrigtsen 🇳🇴 NOR
NCAA: Conner Mantz 🇺🇸 USA
All other major international cross-country championships did not take place in 2021

Season at a glance

In the first big international cross-country race of the year, world half marathon champion Jacob Kiplimo claimed top honours at the Campaccio meeting in San Giorgio su Legnano.

The Ugandan finished three seconds ahead of Ethiopia's Nibret Melak while Uganda's Oscar Chelimo was a further three seconds back in third.

Just one week later, Melak moved up a place on the podium to take the victory at the Cinque Mulini in a close finish ahead of Kenya's Leonard Bett and world 5000m champion Muktar Edris. The abbreviated Cross Country Permit series ended in mid April at the Almond Blossom Cross Country in Albufeira, where Burundi's Thierry Ndikumwenayo took a comfortable victory.

While the women’s season has remained quite open, one athlete has dominated the men’s side of the 2021-2022 World Cross Country Tour.

Burundi's Rodrigue Kwizera has claimed Gold level wins in Soria, Seville and Venta de Banos this year, while he was second in Atapuerca and crossed the finish line first in Alcobendas but was later disqualified for not wearing the vest of his Spanish club.

The series of Gold meetings started with a win for Britain’s Hugo Milner in Cardiff, while Eritrea’s Awet Habte triumphed in Amorebieta and his compatriot Aron Kifle took the title in Atapuerca. Spain's Abdessamad Oukhelfen claimed a win on home soil following Kwizera’s disqualification in Alcobendas and there was another home victory for Dillon Maggard at the Cross Champs at Mt.SAC in Walnut.

Kwizera leads both the world rankings and Country Tour standings ahead of Uganda's Thomas and Joel Ayeko, and Spain's Abdessamad Oukhelfen.

At the European Cross Country Championships in Dublin, Norway’s Olympic 1500m champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen switched his success from the track to the country, winning the senior title ahead of Turkey’s Aras Kaya and France’s Jimmy Gressier.

The U23 crown was claimed by Britain’s Charles Hicks, while Denmark’s Axel Vang Christensen got U20 gold.

World Athletics

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