Christian de Vaal of Pakuranga Athletic Club has been named by Athletics NZ in a final team of 18 athletes comprising a full complement of six athletes in each of men’s and women’s U20 races to compete at the 2024 World Cross Country Championships in Belgrade in March.
An initial team of eight athletes was announced on December 21 with a further 11 athletes added to the New Zealand team for the endurance test in the Serbian capital. Jamie Mora, who was selected in the men’s under-20 team as part of the initial squad, has withdrawn.
New Zealand will boast five athletes in the senior women’s race including Annika Pfitzinger (Athletics Nelson) who will follow her mum, Christine Pfitzinger as a New Zealand World Cross Country Championships representative.
Annika, who claimed a silver medal at the 2023 New Zealand Cross Country Championships, is set to make her New Zealand debut – a huge honour for the 31-year-old athlete who battled chronic fatigue syndrome for several years.
First diagnosed with the condition in 2018 she found the simple act of climbing off the couch a desperate struggle for a period. Blinding headaches and fogginess were also common, however after returning to serious training in 2022 she has been rewarded by making her New Zealand international debut.
“To make my first New Zealand team at the age of 31 after so many years sidelined with chronic fatigue syndrome means the world to me,” said Annika whose mother, Christine competed at four World Cross Country Championships in the 1980s.
“My goal has always been to represent New Zealand on the international stage and while that looked very unlikely for a long time, I am so proud of how my team and I have persevered over the past few years to regain my health and get back to competing at a high level again.”
Also featuring as part of the senior women’s team is Katherine Camp (Te Awamutu), the national 10,000m champion who competed in the senior women’s race at the 2023 World Cross Country
Championships in Bathurst. Australian-based Kiwi Caitlin McQuilken-Bell, who placed fourth at the 2023 New Zealand Cross Country Championships, is also selected.
The trio will join 2023 New Zealand Cross Country champion and recently minted national 10,000m champion Anneke Arlidge – whose mother Glenys Kroon also competed for New Zealand at the World Cross Country Championships – and UK-based Georgie Grgec who is set for her New Zealand debut. Arlidge and Grgec were announced in the initial selection.
William Little (Whippets) is the sole senior man selected. The 24-year-old finished fifth at the 2023 New Zealand Cross Country Championships and last month posted a big 10,000m PB of 29:14.92 at the Zatopek meet in Melbourne. Little will be making his first appearance for New Zealand.
New Zealand boast full teams in both the men’s and women’s U20 races presenting a mouthwatering opportunity to gain international experience against the best in the world.
Elliott Pugh (Athletics Tauranga) wins selection for a second successive World Cross Country Championships having placed an impressive 39th in the men’s U20 race at the 2023 edition in Bathurst.
Pugh, the 2023 national U18 1500m and 3000m silver medallist, is joined on the team by national U20 steeplechase silver medallist Lorcan Rabbitte (VUW) and Az Cabusao of Te Puke Harriers, who ran a sub-32-minute time at the Timaru Ten last October.
The trio will be joined by Christian de Vaal (Pakuranga), Matt Hill (Athletics Tauranga) and Daniel Prescott (Selwyn) who were announced in the initial selection.
Four further names have been announced in the final selection for the senior women’s U20 team led by Zara Geddes (Hill City), the national U20 cross country bronze medallist.
Also earning their ticket for Serbia are national U20 road mile champion Poppy Martin (Lake City AC), national U18 3000m champion Siena Mackley (Queenstown AC) and Ava Sutherland of Olympic Harriers, the national U18 road silver medallist.
Catherine Lund (Ariki) and Boh Ritchie (Hamilton City Hawks), who finished 27th and 41st respectively, in the U20 race at the 2023 World Cross Country Championships, were announced in the initial selection and will also line up in Belgrade.
Athletics NZ Out of Stadia co-ordinator John Bowden said: “We are delighted to announce a final team of 18 for the 2024 World Cross Country Championships in Belgrade, and we are particularly pleased to have full teams in both the men’s and women’s races.
“The World Cross is regarded as the toughest endurance race in the world given the quality of athletes competing it will provide crucial experience for all our athletes. I can’t wait to see how they all perform.”
Georgie Grgec, Auckland City Athletics, Coach Geoff Jerwood
Anneke Arlidge, North Harbour Bays, Coach Paul Hamblyn
Annika Pfitzinger, Athletics Nelson, Chris Pilone
Caitlin McQuilken-Bell, Auckland City Athletics, Coach Melissa Duncan
Katherine Camp, Te Awamutu, Coach Craig Kirkwood
William Little, Whippets, Coach Sam McLean
Catherine Lund, Ariki AC, Coaches Rebekah Aitkenhead and Alan Moir
Boh Ritchie, Hamilton City Hawks, Coach Angela Russek
Zara Geddes, Hill City, Coach Dave Stinson
Poppy Martin, Lake City AC, Coach Jason Cameron
Siena Mackley, Queenstown Athletics, Coach Neville Britton
Ava Sutherland, Olympic Harriers, Coach John Cope
Christian De Vaal, Pakuranga AC, Coach Mick Byrne
Matt Hill, Athletics Tauranga, Coach Tom Peterson
Daniel Prescott, Selwyn AC, Coaches Angie and Sam Petty
Elliott Pugh, Athletics Tauranga, Coach Craig Kirkwood
Lorcan Rabbitte, Victoria University of Wellington, Coach Richard Potts
Az Cabusao, Te Puke Harriers, Coach Andrew Lloyd
Shireen Crumpton (Dunedin) and Jason Cameron (Rotorua).