Applying different running tactics, Johnatas de Oliveira and Genevive Lalonde made history for Brazil and Canada respectively by earning their country’s first ever senior title at the 4th Pan American Cross Country Cup in Langford, Canada, on Saturday (29).
Lalonde, the Pan American Games and Canadian record holder for the steeplechase, dominated the women’s race almost from start to finish, moving away from the rest of the field just 10 minutes into the race.
The 28-year-old found no opposition through the three remaining laps of the five-loop course along the gold course at Bear Mountain Resort and crossed the finish line in 37:37, 32 seconds ahead of her next competitor, Carrie Verdon of the USA. Peru’s Lizaida Thalia Valdivia overtook Canada’s early leader Natasha Wodak in the final stages to secure bronze in 38:12.
“This is a good start to the 2020 season and looking to the lead up to the Olympic Games,” Lalonde told Athletics Canada. “Going up the hill, I kept my rhythm and kept it smooth and I took it out more than I expected. We’re here to inspire you so we’re going to keep running, keep racing.”
Having moved to the west coast of Canada a month earlier, Lalonde’s dominant display came as no surprise, considering the two-time national cross-country champion finished 20th at last year’s World Cross Country Championships, making her the highest-placed woman from the Americas.
In the men’s race, the Brazilian duo of Johnatas de Oliveira and national champion Daniel Ferreira took the early pacing, closely followed by USA’s four-time NCAA champion Anthony Rotich, in a group that included 12 men from Brazil, Peru, Mexico and five USA runners.
Some 21 minutes into racing, De Oliveira and Rotich started to separate themselves from the rest of the field, setting the stage for the final lap. With the last 180 metres of the race in elevation, De Oliveira took a narrow edge. Rotich launched his sprint on the home stretch and both crossed the finish line in 32:50. The photo finish determined the gold for the unheralded Brazilian, second at the National Cross Country Championships a month earlier.
“This is the most important result of my career,” De Oliveira told the Brazilian Athletics Confederation. “I have only been a competitive runner for four years. It was a sensational finish, but I was not going to give up, especially all I went through in this cold weather (8C).”
The 29-year-old, who competed at least year’s World Cross, improved on his silver medal performance at the 2019 South American Cross Country Championships.
Peru’s Paul Ramirez bided his time and moved into the bronze medal position in the final lap, securing the fourth individual bronze medal for his country on the day.
Gilberto Silvestre Lopes, twice a silver medallist at continental events, finished 10th this time.
In the U20 races, the USA finished 1-2 in the men’s 8km with Corey Gorgas (27:15) and Evan Bishop (27:20). Peru’s Alejandro Alania overtook Mexico’s Cesar Daniel Gomez at the line for bronze. Both were timed at 27:35.
In the U20 women’s 6km race, the first one of the championships, USA’s Brooke Rauber took gold in 23:12, ahead of Canada’s Sadie Sigfstead (23:23) and Peru’s Jhenifer Melchor (23:46).
The Pan American Championships, held in North America for the first time, is held in even years as the South American and NACAC events in odd years. Athletes from The Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe, El Salvador, Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama, also competed at the biennial event, first held in 2015.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for World Athletics