Women's Preview: World Athletics Cross Country Championships Belgrade 2024

Posted by: Watch Athletics

The upcoming World Cross Country Championships in Belgrade is shaping up to be an event of grand scale and fierce competition. With a total of 245 athletes (138 men and 107 women) set to compete in the individual senior races and 187 athletes (95 men and 92 women) gearing up for the under-20 race, the event promises to showcase the best of global cross country running. Furthermore, twelve teams are preparing to take on the challenge in the mixed relay. The championships will unfold in the expansive landscapes of Friendship Park, one of Belgrade's largest parks, on Saturday, March 30.

Beatrice Chebet of Kenya is set to defend her title in the senior women's race, having secured the gold at the previous World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, Australia. Following this, she claimed a bronze in the 5000 meters at Budapest, adding to her silver from Eugene 2022 and her victory in the world 5 km road race in Riga. In 2022, Chebet also took home gold in the 5000 meters at both the African Championships and the Commonwealth Games, as well as winning the Diamond League 5000 meters in Zurich.

Chebet advanced her personal best in the 5000 meters to 14:05.92 at the Wanda Diamond League Final in Eugene in 2023, positioning her third globally behind Gudaf Tsegay and Faith Kipyegon. She triumphed in the World Cross Country Tour Gold race in Elgoibar and placed fourth in the Kenyan Cross Country Championships on March 2.

The Kenyan team includes Agnes Ngetich, who grabbed the world cross country bronze in Bathurst and topped the 10 km global list with a 28:46 finish in Valencia, tying Chebet's 5 km world record at 14:13 in the process. Ngetich also won the Kenyan Cross Country Championships, outpacing Emmaculate Anyango by three seconds.

Anyango registered a 30:01 in the 10 km at Lille and took second in Valencia with a personal best of 28:57, ranking her second globally in the 10 km. Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi earned a silver in the 5000 meters at Doha 2019, a bronze in the 10000 meters in Eugene 2022, and a half marathon silver in Riga 2023, alongside fourth-place finishes in the 5000m finals in Eugene 2022 and Budapest 2023.

Lilian Kasait Rengeruk secured second in the 5 km at the World Road Running Championships in Riga 2023 and fifth in the 5000 meters at the 2019 World Championships in Doha.

Kenya's women have clinched the last eight senior titles. Ethiopia's team is led by Girmawit Gebrzihair, boasting a half marathon time of 1:04:14 from Ras Al Khaimah in 2022, and includes Tadelech Bekele, Sisay Meseret Gola, Bertukan Welde, and Mebrat Gidey. Francine Niyomokunzi of Burundi and the Kazakh team with Norah Jeruto and Daisy Jepkemei are also key contenders.

Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal of Norway aims to be the top European, carrying a history of European cross country victories and recent success at the New York Half Marathon. The British team fields Jessica Warner-Judd and Abbie Donnelly, while the US team is led by Weini Kelati, holder of the North American half marathon record.

In the upcoming women's under 20 race, Ethiopia's Lemlem Nibret and Kenya's Nancy Cherop are set to compete. Nibret, a 19-year-old from Ethiopia, secured fifth place at the World Cross Country Championship in Bathurst in 2023, took second at the Cross Internacional Zornotza, and finished eighth at the Cross Internacional de Atapuerca as part of this year's World Cross Country Tour Gold.

She will be supported by fellow Ethiopians including Yenawa Nbret, victor of the Ethiopian Trials at the Jan Meda International Cross Country race; Asayech Ayichew, who placed second in the World Cross Country Tour Gold races in Soria, Alcobendas, and Venta de Banos; Robe Dida, the African under 20 cross country champion; and teammates Marta Alemayehu, Yenenesh Shmekt, and Shito Gumi.

Kenya's team is headed by 17-year-old Nancy Cherop, a bronze medallist in the 3000 meters at the world under 20 level, and winner of golds in both the 1500m and 3000m at the Commonwealth Youth Games, in addition to her under 18 African gold in the 800 meters. The Kenyan squad also includes Diana Chepkemoi, who was ninth at Bathurst 2023 and an African under 20 bronze medallist in the 2000 meters steeplechase; Deborah Chemutai, the 2019 African under 18 silver medallist over 3000 meters; Sheila Jebet, seventh in the 1500m at the African under 20 Championships in Zambia and a victor at the Kenyan National Cross Country Championships; Diana Cherotich, fourth in the 5000m at the African under 20 Championships; and Mercy Chepkemoi.

The U.S. team, comprising Ellie Shea, Zarel Macchia, and Allie Zealand, previously earned the team bronze medal at Bathurst in the last year, with Shea finishing 10th individually.

Representing Serbia will be Salma Muric, the 2022 national 800 meters champion; Natalija Grujic, the 2022 national indoor 3000m and 4x400 indoor champion; and Mejra Mehmedovic, the Serbian under 20 champion in the 3000 meters.

The women's under 20 race at the world cross country championships has been a launching pad for some of the globe's premier distance runners, including Faith Kipyegon, Tirunesh Dibaba, Letesenbet Gidey, and Vivian Cheruiyot, who have all achieved world and Olympic glory.

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