Dominika Nowakowska just holding off Jelena Prokopcuka at the 2015 Almond Blossom Cross Country (© organisers)
For the first time since 1995, European runners took both the men’s and women’s titles at the famous Almond Blossom Cross Country in Portugal, the penultimate fixture on the 2014-15 IAAF Cross Country Permit calendar, with Moldova’s Roman Prodius and Poland’s Dominika Nowakowska winning in the Portuguese town of Acoteias on Sunday (22).
First to triumph was Nowakowska, who has been training in nearby Vila Real de Santo António and took the lead early in the 4.5km race and then held off a late charge by Latvia’s two-time Almond Blossom winner Jelena Prokopcuka, who just failed to add to her victories in 2006 and 2009.
Nowakowska crossed the line in 14:51 with Prokopcuka one second in arrears.
In third place, 14 seconds further back, was Dutch marathon runner Andrea Deelstra while the first local runner home was the 41-year-old Portuguese international Ana Dias, a stalwart of national teams for almost 20 years.
In the men’s 8.2km event, the 33-year-old Prodius caused a big surprise to clinch his win in the last kilometre and take a comfortable win by nine seconds from the Netherlands’ Tom Wiggers, the pair timed at 24:18 and 24:27.
The win probably ranks as the biggest in Prodius’ career although he is familiar with Portuguese events, having won the Viana do Castelo Half Marathon two years ago.
"I had a good feeling today but it was not easy to win, however, because I am not used to running cross country, I do more road racing,” said the winner, speaking in passable Portuguese.
The final 2014-15 IAAF Cross Country Permit meeting will be the IAAF Antrim International Cross Country on 14 March.
Antonio Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF
1 Roman Prodius (MDA) 24:18
2 Tom Wiggers (NED) 24:27
3 Ricardo Mateus (POR) 25:12
4 Andrey Rogiewicsz (POL) 25:14
5 Jorge Varela (POR) 25:54
6 Jorge Pinto (POR) 26:41
1 Dominika Nowakowska (POL) 14:51
2 Jelena Prokopcuka (LAT) 14:52
3 Andrea Deelstra (NED) 15:06
4 Ana Dias (POR) 15:32
5 Marta Krawczynska (POL) 15:54
6 Monica Vieira (POR) 16:14