08 March 2012
Defending champion Emelia Gorecka (Mick Woods/Surrey) will be favourite to retain the junior title she won 12 months ago when she lines up in Cofton Park, Birmingham at this Saturday’s McCain Inter Counties Cross Country and Challenge Final (10 March), but there will be a new name on both senior trophies.
Neither Andy Vernon (Nic Bideau/Hampshire) nor Charlotte Purdue (Mick Woods/Hampshire) - both impressive winners last year - will race this weekend, so newly crowned English National Cross Country Champions Keith Gerrard (Lancashire) and Gemma Steel (John Nuttall/Leicestershire) must start as favourites.
Steel is the women’s McCain Cross Challenge leader and is unlikely to be challenged for the overall Series title after an outstanding season, although English National runner up Stephanie Twell (Mick Woods/Hampshire), winner of the senior Inter counties event as a 19-year-old in 2009, will provide tough – if not title winning – competition on the day.
Frank Tickner (Avon & Somerset), runner up three years ago and out of sight at the head of the men’s leader board, should be in the mix for the individual men’s event victory alongside Steve Vernon (Dave Turnbull/Greater Manchester) who was runner up at Parliament Hill a fortnight ago.
European Cross Country champion Gorecka is the only athlete to have won five consecutive UK Inter County Championships and is on course to win her sixth successive title. Gorecka’s main challenge is likely to come from 2011/12 overall Challenge leader Annabel Gummow (Chris Wooldridge/Cornwall), the runner up in 2011 and second behind Gorecka in the recent English National.
With 2011 men’s junior champion Jonny Hay (Mick Woods/Hampshire) stepping up to senior level for this event under IAAF rules, his Aldershot club mate Harvey Dixon (Mick Woods/Hampshire), runner up behind him at Parliament Hill, could secure his first Inter Counties victory in addition to the McCain Cross Challenge Series title which he leads by a single point.
In the absence of an IAAF World Cross Country Championships in 2012 – the event has gone biennial and will re-commence in 2013 – this year’s McCain Cross Challenge Final has equal prominence across all age groups.
Under-17 Challenge leaders going into the event final are Kyran Hale (Severn AC), and Becky Straw (Cannock & Stafford), Jennifer Nisbett (Worcester AC) and Rachael Dunn (Edinburgh AC) who are tied equally for the women’s title.
Twins Paulos and Petros Asgodom (Enfield & Haringey) are first and second respectively in the under-15 boys’ competition with Elizabeth Hood (Poole AC) leading the girls, while Hugo Milner (Derby AC) and Elizabeth Greenwood (Blackburn Harriers) are top of the leader board in the under-13 age group.
The first event of the day is the under-20 men at 11.05 and there’s live coverage from 11.00 through 15.00 on Sky Sports 3 and Sky Sports HD3.
Live updates will also available on UKA’s Twitter.
Additional event information can be found in the dedicated McCain UK Cross Challenge section on the UKA website.