10 March 2012
European Cross Country champion Emelia Gorecka (Mick Woods) took her sixth consecutive McCain Inter Counties Cross Country and Challenge Final title in style today at Cofton Park, Birmingham, while Keith Gerrard was a dominant and impressive winner in the senior men’s race.
After East Wales’ Ffion Price had taken an early lead in the U20 women’s race, Gorecka and Annabel Gummow (Chris Wooldridge) were shoulder to shoulder, pulling away from Louise Small (Mick Woods), Rhona Auckland (Joyce Hogg) and Jess Chen (Gerry North) in the chasing pack.
Coming off the hill on the second lap, Gorecka and Gummow had gained a comfortable lead on Chen in third place, and it was then that Gorecka made her move, increasing her pace to leave Gummow behind.
Winning her sixth Inter Counties title for Surrey in 20:11, adding to her six national titles, she said: “I raced quite differently to normal today, I’ve got a bit of a cold, but I just wanted to sit back for longer than usual and just get used to feeling good, get my legs going, make sure everything was going ok. I waited a little bit longer than usual to go, which I think made my finish a lot stronger and I had a positive race rather than getting slower.
“It was good to see if I can run that kind of race, because usually I take the lead quite early on and this time I wanted to try something different and it worked really well actually – a positive race.
“I have the English Schools next before I finish the end of the cross country season. For the last two years I was up for World Cross, so I’m really looking forward to doing it this year, it’s such a great event and I will be team captain, so it would be nice to finish on a high.”
Auckland took bronze for Scotland East in 21:11, behind Cornwall’s silver medallist Gummow who finished in 20:38.
In the senior men’s race, Keith Gerrard also timed his kick to perfection after sitting in amongst a tight leading pack with Dewi Griffiths (Kevin Evans), Phil Wicks, Jonathan Taylor (Gordon Surtees), Ricky Stevenson (Steve Shaw), Jonny Hay (Mick Woods) and Jonathan Brownlee.
By the second lap Gerrard had taken the lead, flanked by Ricky Stevenson, while McCain Cross Challenge leader Frank Tickner (self) remained behind the front group in seventh.
The bold move by Gerrard paid off as his lead developed all the way to the finish line to win in 34:57, while behind him Wicks had taken some scalps over Brownlee and Taylor to move into third place and began to put pressure on Stevenson for a quick finish.
But Wicks couldn’t catch him and finished in third in 35:11 for Surrey, with Stevenson taking the silver medal for the North East in 35:06.
Gerrard said: “I’m made up. It couldn’t have gone any better. My big effort came from a decisive move after having a look around and thinking I didn’t want to leave it too late; I thought I would test the guys out there and see what shape they were in.
“It has reinforced that I’m in great shape. It was a tough up and down course, but cross country is my favourite and I’m growing to love track more too. I’m looking forward to heading to the States in April to work on that ahead of the summer.”
The crowd also enjoyed a head to head showdown between English National Cross Champion Gemma Steel (John Nuttall) and Stephanie Twell (Mick Woods), winner of the senior Inter counties event as a 19-year-old in 2009, in the senior women’s race.
Steel pushed the pace from the front with Twell and Hannah Doran (Bill Foster) on either shoulder as they made their way round the second lap of the course. Not far behind, though, were Naomi Taschimowitz (Charlotte Fisher), Louise Small (Mick Woods) and Caryl Jones - arguably a surprise package competing for West Wales - as the group of five came clear.
Steel and Twell were shoulder-to-shoulder, stride-for-stride for the last few miles of the race, but Steel really put the pressure on coming off the 800m loop into the last kilometre and kept the momentum as she began to pull away and win the race in 26:48 for Leicestershire.
Twell took the silver medal for Hampshire in 27:03 and Hannah Doran won the battle for third place for Avon & Somerset over Naomi Taschimowitz in 27:25.
Following the race, Steel said: “It’s a dream come true taking the National title and then the Inter Counties, my teammate did it back in 2000 so I wanted to emulate her achievements so it’s a bit of history for my club Charnwood and it just shows that I am on course.
“I like to take the race out from the start, that’s my strength, by the last hill on the final lap I knew could take it, so its a good end to the cross country season. I’m looking forward to form warm weather training at the end of March for the summer ahead.”
Steel's win also meant she took the McCain Cross Challenge series title and prize money of £4,000.
McCain ambassador Steph Twell added: “I’m just enjoying my running and racing again and again against some really good competition which keeps pushing me. You could tell today was quite different to the English National Championships, so having a head-to-head was really good fun.
It was Zak Seddon (Jeff Seddon) who took the first medal of the day though for Berkshire in the U20 men’s race with a fantastic finish.
Kieran Clements (Stephen Benson) set the pace for the first half of the race with Luke Taylor and Harvey Dixon (Mick Woods) packing in well behind.
Seddon began to gain pace on the second lap taking Ian Bailey (Mick Woods) with him, as Clements started to fade. Extending his lead, Bailey couldn’t stick with him, and by lap three Seddon had gained a 50 second lead and pushed on to finish in 24:50.
After the race he said: “I went into the race thinking a top ten finish, and I would be happy, so I am really happy to have won. I felt really good at the front, really comfortable and my confidence just grew. I really enjoyed it.
“This sets me up well for the summer, the world junior steeplechase in particular, but my confidence is now sky high.”
Bailey (Surrey) managed to keep on to his second place and finished in 25:01, while Kieran Clements (Suffolk) won the bronze medal in 25:17.
Full results (individual and team) are below in addition to the final McCain UK Cross Challenge standings.