The Turkish Cross-Country Team continued their domination on the Balkan Cross scene while they earned 19 out of 35 possible podium positions at the 61st Balkan XC Championships in Çanakkale.

Balkan Cross-Country Championships, one of the longest-running international cross-country competition in the world, concluded in Turkey’s Çanakkale province. Officially opening by Association of Balkan Atletics Federation President Dobromir Karamarinov, nine Balkan nation were representing in 61st edition of this event as the host country Turkey finished on top of the medal table in sixth consecutive year.

The race course have been installed on heart of Gallipoli Historical Site, which is known as ‘turning point’ of World War I. The course had turned mud lake with a heavy rain at the beginning, but latter part of the competition was contested under perfect conditions for a cross country race.

Same as last year’s competition, men’s senior race was dominated by Turkish runners. The 29-year old Sedat Gönen completed 10-km course in 33:41, just ahead of 2016 champion Ramazan Özdemir, who has been following him closely during all race long. Alper Demir finished the race 27 seconds from leader, but he’d took bronze medal ahead of another Turkish runner Aykut Taşdemir who came fourth. With a team perfection, Turkey has secured ‘possible-perfect’ six points to clinched team cup over Bulgaria (23 pts) and Romania (26 pts).

Senior Women’s race could be summerized as ‘nail biting contest between Romanian Roxana Birca and Turkish rival Sevilay Eytemiş’. Locally famed as a qualified mount and XC runner, 2016 Balkan silver medallist Sevilay Eytemiş took lead several times from Birca during the eight kilometer race despite heavy fall in seventh lap. But Romanian athlete Birca eventually built six second gap in the end while securing comfortable victory over Eytemiş. Just behind this hard-contesting duo, 2014 Balkan Cross champion and European bronze medallist steeplechaser Özlem Kaya came third to have her fifth individual medal at Balkan XC.

Turkish team have opened the championship with a podium sweep in women’s junior category, which was won by Pınar Demirtaş, ahead of following team-mates Latife Güneş and Emine Akbingöl. In men’s junior, Ramazan Barbaros took the gold third time in a row, he defeated European Junior 10,000 metres champion Dorin Andrei Rusu from Romania.

Andreea Piscu had been producing similar performance like senior race winner compatriot Bircu, in under-23 competition. Piscu had outclassed to three Turkishwomen with a remarkable run and won the race by ten seconds.

After the conclusion of the championships, Çanakkale Governor Mr. Orhan Tavlı had presented special plaques to team delegates, ABAF and Turkish Athletics Federation. Governor Tavlı pursued solicitously all the races from beginning to the end by companion from Turkish Athletics Federation President Mr.Fatih Çintimar and some Turkish long distance legends.

Here’s the podiums of 61st Balkan Cross Country Championships.

Men’s Junior:
1. Ramazan Barbaros (TUR)
2. Andrei Rusu (ROU)
3. Adrian Garcea (ROU)
Teams podium: TUR, ROU, SRB

Women’s Junior:
1. Pınar Demirtaş (TUR)
2. Latife Güneş (TUR)
3. Emine Akbingöl (TUR)
Teams podium: TUR, ROU, BUL

Men’s U23:
1. Turgay Bayram (TUR)
2. Ersin Tekal (TUR)
3. Nicolea Coman (ROU)
Teams podium: TUR, ISR, ROU

Women’s U23:
1. Andreea Piscu (ROU)
2. Tubay Erdal (TUR)
3. Emine Hatun Tuna (TUR)
Teams podium: TUR, ROU

Men’s Senior: 
1. Sedat Gönen (TUR)
2. Ramazan Özdemir (TUR)
3. Alper Demir (TUR)
Teams podium: TUR, BUL, ROU

Women’s Senior:
1. Roxana Elisabeta Birca (ROU)
2. Sevilay Eytemiş (TUR)
3. Özlem Kaya (TUR)
Teams podium: ROU, TUR, SRB