21 November 2012
After a convincing victory at the McCain Bristol Cross Challenge in October, Caryl Jones (George Edwards) is one of the leading senior women’s entrants ahead of this weekend’s McCain Liverpool Cross Challenge incorporating the European Cross Country Trials at Sefton Park on Saturday (24 November).
In the senior men’s event, defending Liverpool champion Andy Vernon (Nic Bideau) - an impressive top ten finisher in the 2011 SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Slovenia - heads the men’s entries along with namesake Steve Vernon (Dave Turnbull).
Welsh athlete Jones, who is having her best year ever, clocked multiple PBs on the road and track across the summer and her good form contributed to her making her Aviva GB & NI debut at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in October.
She was the convincing winner of round one of the McCain Cross Challenge in Bristol last month and now has a realistic chance of making her international cross country debut at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Budapest, Hungary on Sunday 9 December.
Others of note due to compete in the women’s event this weekend include Sonia Samuels (George Gandy) who clocked a marathon PB in Berlin in September; 2010 Trials winner and European Cross team silver medallist Louise Damen (self-coached); European Under-23 Cross Country Champion Emma Pallant (Mick Woods) who is now focusing on Triathlon; and European Under-23 silver medallist Naomi Taschimowitz (Charlotte Fisher).
Hannah Brooks (Bud Baldaro), a former GB junior internationalist on the track, finished second behind Jones in Bristol and was fifth fastest at the English Cross Country Relays in Mansfield, so will be one to watch, while Lennie Waite (Mick Woods) and Susan Partridge (John Montgomery) could also be in contention; Waite returns this week from Iten, Kenya from the UKA/London Marathon Altitude Camp and is reportedly in the kind of form that will put her in the mix for selection, while Partridge has recently set a half marathon PB and if she continues that form, could make a return to international cross country.
Andy Vernon, after clocking the second quickest time of the year by a British athlete over 10,000m in April, missed the summer due to injury and makes a welcome return to individual competition in Liverpool. He was fourth fastest in the English Relays in Mansfield and will target his third successive McCain Liverpool title on Saturday.
Steve Vernon, who has never finished higher than seventh in Liverpool, was quickest in Mansfield and should relish the expected heavy underfoot conditions in Sefton Park.
Other notable entrants include Frank Tickner (Clive Thomas), a cross country specialist who finished second in Bristol and has consistently made British teams for the European Cross Country Championships, and Scottish National Cross Country Champion Derek Hawkins (Lawrie Spence), who, if recovered sufficiently from his 2:14:04 marathon PB in October, should finish in one of the top five automatic selection positions.
Also likely to feature are Patrick Martin (Dave Turnbull), John Beattie (John Nuttall) and Mike Skinner (Andy Hobdell) who all recorded quick times in Mansfield.
In the under-23 category, Bristol winner Dewi Griffiths (Kevin Evans), unbeaten in his last five outings, will be looking to continue his good form, while 2009 European Junior silver medallist Nick Goolab, a member of Belgrave’s English Cross Country Relays winning team, continues his comeback.
James Wilkinson (Phil Townsend), bronze medallist behind Goolab in Dublin 2009, is making progress after injury kept him out over the summer, and after a solid performance in Mansfield, should be targeting a top six finish which would guarantee automatic selection.
Liverpool also sees the return of Jonny Hay (Mick Woods), a late withdrawal from Bristol due to a niggle, who has a strong cross country record - especially in global competition - and in his last competitive outing recorded a half marathon best in the Bupa Great North Run.
In the under-23 women, the form athletes are undoubtedly Hannah Walker (Bud Baldaro) and Jess Coulson (Mick Woods), but cross country specialist Lily Partridge (Mick Woods) and Gemma Kersey (Eamonn Martin), fourth in the senior race in Bristol and first under-23, should also run themselves into automatic selection spots in the top six.
Walker finished first Brit and third overall in Bristol Half in September in a PB of 71:50, while more recently she was fastest home in Mansfield and finished second Brit in the IX Cross de Atapuerca in Burgos, Spain less than a fortnight ago.
First Brit home in Spain was Coulson who finished third overall and leading European, and just prior to that event she finished second in the Bupa Great South Run.
Partridge was a top ten finisher in the European Cross in Portugal two years ago and a member of the gold medal winning Aviva GB & NI under-23 squad in Slovenia 2011, while Kersey also won team gold in Slovenia (as a junior) where she finished 16th overall, and will want a repeat of that performance if she makes the under-23 team on this occasion.
In the under-20 women’s event, European Junior Champion and defending Liverpool champion Emelia Gorecka (Mick Woods) is the overwhelming favourite for victory, while Jessica Judd (Rob Denmark), the under-20 winner in Bristol, will also be in contention. Both athletes made the podium in this year’s IAAF World Junior Championships.
Also in the mix should be Banchory & Stonehaven’s Rhona Auckland (Joyce Hogg), winner of the recent Scottish 4k and Scottish University Cross Country Championships, and Spenborough’s Jenny Walsh (Deborah Rowlands) who won the junior women’s race at the IX Cross de Atapuerca in Spain.
Annabel Gummow (Neville Taylor) is a late withdrawal due to injury.
BRAT’s (Birmingham Running and Triathlon Club) Jack Gray (Nick Price) starts as favourite in the junior men’s race. A fourth place finisher as a first year under-20 in the English National and Inter-Counties in 2010, he recaptured that form with an impressive victory in Bristol which followed on from a tough year with illness and injury.
Most recently, he won the Birmingham League junior race in Leamington a fortnight ago, finishing second overall.
Kieran Clements, third in the McCain Cross Challenge Final in Birmingham in March, returns from the USA and should be in the mix for selection, while European Junior Duathlon Champion Richard Horton (Peter Bailey), the fastest under-20 at the Cross Country Relays in Mansfield, could challenge for his first GB vest.
Also likely to be in the mix are Jonathan Davies (Rob McKim), second in round one in Bristol and fourth at the IX Cross de Atapuerca in Spain, and former Youth Olympic Games bronze medallist Charlie Grice (Jon Bigg) who returns from Kenya with the UKA/London Marathon group on Thursday.
At the Trials, the first five eligible seniors across the line will be selected automatically to represent the Aviva GB & NI team in Hungary; the selectors will fill the sixth place based on all known form up to and including the 24 November 2012.
In the under-23 event the first six eligible athletes across the line in the combined trial race (with the seniors) will be selected. If an under-23 athlete finishes in an automatic senior selection position at the trial they may be selected for the senior Championship but the final decision will rest solely with selectors.
In the under-20 trial the first six eligible juniors across the line will be selected automatically.
In the age group events in Liverpool, focus falls on the winners of the McCain Bristol Cross Challenge who will aim to make it two wins from two in the Series: Katy-Ann McDonald (Herne Hill Harriers) and Matthew Rawlings (Reading AC) in the under-13 category; Harriet Knowles-Jones and Daniel Evans targeting a Warrington double in the under-15 event; and Bobby Clay (Invicta East Kent) and Jac Hopkins (Swansea Harriers) in the under-17 category.
It should be noted that Clay, the winner of the combined under-17/under-20 race in Bristol, is too young according to European Athletics rules to be selected to represent the Aviva GB & NI team in Hungary, even if she finishes in an automatic selection position.
Competing in the European Clubs Cross Country Trial, which is incorporated within the senior events, Birchfield Harriers (England), Central AC (Scotland) and Swansea Harriers (Wales) will compete for the women’s UK spot while Central AC (Scotland), Belgrave Harriers (England) and Swansea Harriers (Wales) will battle it out to represent the men.
Follow @UKA_athletics on Twitter for results, photos and interviews from the McCain Cross Challenge Series, plus spot yourself in our highlights video on www.youtube.com/ukatvofficial which will be available two days after the event.
The Series continues in Antrim on 12 January 2013, followed by Cardiff on 20 January 2013 and concluding with the McCain UK Cross Challenge Final and UK Inter Counties, incorporating the IAAF World Cross Country Trials, on Saturday 9 March 2013.
For full details, including the breakdown of prize money which exceeds £30,000 in total, check out the McCain Cross Challenge section on the UKA website and select ‘prize fund’, while the selection policy can be read in full through the following link.