In Soria, Spain, the Cross Internacional de Soria, the fifth Gold level event of this season’s World Athletics Cross Country Tour, saw Rodrigue Kwizera of Burundi and Likina Amebaw from Ethiopia emerge as the victors at an altitude of 1100 meters on a sunny Sunday (19).

Similar to the thrilling finishes witnessed in Seville last weekend, both races in Soria concluded with exhilarating sprint finishes, with the winners clinching their victories by the narrowest of margins.

The men’s 8.8km event began with Kwizera and Spain’s Ouassim Oumaiz leading a sizeable pack through the initial 1.5km circuit in 4:18. Among them were contenders such as Uganda’s Martin Kiprotich, Kenya’s Hillary Chepkwony, and Spain’s Nassim Hassaous.

Oumaiz, a 24-year-old winner in Atapuerca in 2019, maintained an unwavering pace. By the end of the first 2.5km lap, clocked at 7:11, the lead group had dwindled down to 10 men. As the race progressed, challengers like Kenya’s Peter Kariuki, Eritrea’s Aron Kifle, and Burundi’s Celestin Ndikumana lost their footing in the podium chase.

With a lap time of 7:13, seven runners entered the final lap, with Oumaiz, Kiprotich, Chepkwony, Kwizera, and Eritrea’s Filmon Kibrom leading the charge, while Spain’s Hassaous and Sergio Paniagua trailed behind.

In the intense final stages, Hassaous, Paniagua, and Kibrom lagged behind. The quartet of Oumaiz, Kwizera, Chepkwony, and Kiprotich surged into the last kilometer neck and neck. Kwizera and Chepkwony pulled ahead in a gripping finish, leaving Oumaiz and Kiprotich trailing.

Kwizera, based in Spain, secured the win by a narrow margin, marking his first victory of the cross-country season after claiming third place in Atapuerca and Seville. Chepkwony settled for second place, both athletes registering the same time (25:36).

“This win holds immense significance for me as it marks my first triumph this season,” shared Kwizera. “Taking a risk in the final stretch allowed me to gain crucial ground on Chepkwony, enabling me to withstand his late surge. I’m eyeing the upcoming race in Alcobendas once I resolve my visa concerns.”

Oumaiz fended off Kiprotich to secure third place, providing a confidence boost ahead of the European Cross Country Championships in Brussels.

 

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Thierry Ndikumwenayo, the defending champion, and Kwizera’s training partner, finished 10th due to an injury sustained during training in Kenya, expressing satisfaction considering the circumstances, finishing 36 seconds behind the winner.

In the women’s 8.8km race, Lucy Mawia led initially, followed by Amebaw, Asayech Ayichew of Ethiopia, Valentina Gemetto from Italy, France’s Alessia Zarbo, and Argentina’s Fedra Luna.

The pace decelerated as the race unfolded, and the leading group expanded to 20 women after eight minutes.

To the delight of the local audience, Spanish steeplechaser Irene Sánchez-Escribano surged to the front after the initial 2.5km lap (clocked at 8:30), closely pursued by Gemetto and Mawia. However, Mawia’s lead was short-lived, as Sánchez-Escribano and her training partner Carolina Robles, an Olympic steeplechase finalist in 2021, reclaimed the lead midway through the penultimate lap, clocking a slightly quicker 8:28.

Seven women remained in contention at the bell. Surprisingly, Mawia began to fade and eventually withdrew. Meanwhile, the leading Spanish contenders couldn’t match Gemetto’s pace, but Ayichew and Amebaw stayed in close contact.

In an exhilarating finish, Ayichew accelerated in the last kilometer, leaving Gemetto behind. However, Amebaw had reserves left and crossed the finish line one second ahead in 29:44, securing her second victory of the season. Gemetto held onto third place, five seconds ahead of the fast-finishing Spaniard Marta García.

“Before the race, I wasn’t feeling at my peak, so I opted to assess the race’s pace without pushing too hard,” commented Amebaw, likely to participate in Alcobendas next weekend. “Fortunately, my strategy paid off.”

As the sun set on this gripping event, the echoes of Kwizera and Amebaw’s triumphs resonated, setting the stage for the next chapter in the exhilarating saga of cross-country excellence. The Cross Internacional de Soria not only celebrated these remarkable wins but also immortalized the spirit of athleticism, tenacity, and unwavering commitment that defines this thrilling sport.