Maxwell Rotich winning in Soria (© Organisers)
Uganda’s Maxwell Rotich and Eva Cherono of Kenya will be the star names at the 38th Cross Internacional de la Constitución, the third leg of the 2019/20 World Athletics Cross Country Permit series, set for Alcobendas on the outskirts of Madrid on Sunday (24).
Over a tough 10,060m circuit with ups and downs throughout, the 21-year-old Ugandan will be aiming for his second consecutive victory following his win in Soria last Sunday. However, he will be challenged by his toughest opponent on that occasion in the guise of Burundi’s Thierry Ndikumwenayo, who crossed the finish line three seconds behind him last weekend.
The Ugandan tandem of Thomas Ayeko and Timothy Toroitich was well behind the two favourites last weekend but they should fight for a podium place on Sunday. The latter will be making his seventh consecutive appearance in Alcobendas, having managed a podium finish every single year --topped by wins in 2014 and 2016-- except for the last season when he had to settle for fourth.
Ayeko, who was seventh at the World Cross Country Championships last March, finished runner-up in Atapuerca a fortnight ago but fell to fifth in Soria and will be eager to bounce back into the hunt for the win.
Spanish hopes rest with Abdessalam Oukhelfen and Fernando Carro. The former is the reigning European U-23 5000m bronze medallist and proved to be in top form in Atapuerca by placing fifth, just one place ahead Ndikumwenayo while Fernando Carro, the Spanish 3000m steeplechase record holder with 8:05:69, is steadily rounding into form after placing 14th in Atapuerca and ninth in Soria. It’s also worth mentioning the presence of Spain’s Adrián Ben, who was eighth at 800m at the World Championships, who’ll be making his opening outing of the season.
Cherono the woman to beat
Following her runner-up finish against a world-class field in Atapuerca, few would bet against Kenya’s Eva Cherono in the women’s 8040m race. The 23-year-old was eighth at the World Championships in March and should dominate a field that includes Bahrain’s Rose Chelimo, the Portuguese duo of Mariana Machado and Carla Salomé Rocha plus Spain’s Azucena Calvo, who finished a strong sixth in Soria.
Chelimo, the reigning world marathon silver medallist, will be eager to take some revenge on the Portuguese teenager Machado who beat her by inches in Soria last Sunday after a thrilling sprint finish. Meanwhile, Rocha will be competing in Alcobendas for the fourth time with a third place in 2014 under her belt. The 29-year-old set a Portuguese marathon record with a 2:24:47 performance in London for eighth last April but couldn’t finish better than 28th at the World Championships.
Illustrious past winners include Eritreans Zersenay Tadese (2005) and Teklemariam Medhin (2012) and Kenya’s Joseph Ebuya (2007 and 2010) in the men’s section while the most well-known women’s winners are Meselech Melkamu (2005 and 2006) and the Kenyan couple of Linet Masai (2008 and 2015) and Vivian Cheruiyot (2009).
The weather forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with temperatures ranging between 9-11 C. Rain is not expected.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF