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The Warandecross in Tilburg, Netherlands will be run Sunday, November 28. The meet is an important qualifier for the Fingal-Dublin, Ireland European Cross Country Championships happening on Dec. 12.

The men

In the senior men’s, Mike Foppen will be looking to defend his title after winning two years ago. Last year’s event was cancelled due to the pandemic but Foppen, who is one of a handful of Tokyo Olympians to be competing in Tilburg this weekend, is favoured to make the defence.

Tokyo Olympians Khalid Choukoud and Bart Van Nunen – the former also a past winner in Tilburg – and Frank Futselaar. Leading international opposition will come from the Swedish duo of Napoleon Solomon and Suldan Hassan. Switzerland’s Jonas Raess, multi-time Austrian champion Andreas Vojta and Russia’s Rinas Akhmadeyev (an authorised neutral athlete), are competing.

The 24-year-old Foppen owns a 10,000m best of 27:59.10 from Sept. 2020 and a road 10K best of 28:09 on Nov. 6 this year. He is a seven-time national champion over 1500m to the 5000m distances. The 23-year-old Hassan is a three-time national 5000m champion.

The men go 10K, while the women just run 8K.

The women

Some strong Dutch athletes will be competing in the senior women’s race. They include reigning European U23 10,000m champion Jasmijn Lau, former European U23 10,000m champion Jip Vastenburg, sub-four-minute 1500m runner Maureen Koster and Julia Van Velthoven, who took a notable cross country win three weeks ago in Mol. 

Perhaps the pre-race favourite may be Sweden’s Meraf Bahta. She won the event in 2017 and is a two-time medallist at the European Cross Country Championships.

Bahta, at 32 set the national 10,000m record at 31:08.05 in May of 2021. She also owns the national record over 5000m and 3000m, having run 14:49.95 and 8:37.50. She finished sixth in the 1500m final at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Bahta is an nine-time national champion in distances from 800m to the 10,000m.

Full entry-lists for the Warandecross can be found here.

SHOESTRINGS: The Canadian Cross Country Championships happen Sunday in Ottawa, Ontario.

Men’s preview

Mike Tate does not have to venture farther than his own living room to remember that defending his national ACXC title will be no walk in the park. 

Two years have now passed since the Antigonish, N.S. native sprinted past Vancouver’s Luc Bruchet, mustached and muddy-legged, to capture his first-ever national cross-country title in Abbotsford, B.C. 

Tate expects Bruchet to be back with a vengeance this year in the Ottawa region’s Wesley Clover Parks. Yet, the 26-year-old wonders if his roommates Connor Black or Phil Parrot-Migas, or another teammate like Jeremy Coughler or Jack Sheffar, all members of the London Western Track Club, pose the greatest threat to his title. After all, Black and Coughler got the best of him at the Athletics Ontario Championship in October. 

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Women’s preview

The last time somebody not named Geneviève Lalonde won the ACXC women’s open title was in 2017.  

The Moncton, N.B. native triumphed on Fort Henry’s foothills in Kingston in 2018, and then on Abbotsford’s twisty terrain in 2019, both times setting the tempo for much of the race. Now, one might expect the twice-defending ACXC champion to feel pressure as she prepares for Saturday’s championship in Ottawa Region’s Wesley Clover Parks. But for Lalonde, a cross-country veteran and two-time Olympian in the 3,000m steeplechase, competing is part of the fun. 

“I have set the goal to enjoy the race. 10 km can be long, and if you aren’t having a good time it can be even longer, so why not make it enjoyable?” said the 30-year-old, who now lives and trains in Victoria, B.C. 

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