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DEFENDING CHAMPION GORECKA LEADS FULL AVIVA GB & NI TEAMS

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Emelia Gorecka

27 November 2012

A 36-strong Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland Team will head to this year’s SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Budapest, Hungary on Sunday 9 December looking to reinforce its status as Europe’s top cross country nation by defending the four team titles won 12 months ago when the entire squad returned with medals.

Defending European Junior Cross Country Champion Emelia Gorecka (Mick Woods) could make it three successive podium finishes when she lines up in a strong junior women’s team.

The 18-year-old - Britain’s only defending individual champion - was third behind her winning Aldershot, Farnham & District team mate Charlie Purdue when she made her European Cross Country debut in 2010.

On this occasion, she will be joined by trials runner up Jenny Walsh (Deborah Rowlands) and third place finisher Jessica Judd (Rob Denmark), an IAAF World Junior 800m silver medallist this summer, as the trio lead a squad that has every chance of continuing the strong tradition of success in this age group, where athletes have won six team gold medals in the last seven years.

“Budapest has always been the aim for this part of my season,” said Gorecka, the IAAF World Junior 3000m bronze medallist. “Every other race has been a stepping stone, so I cannot wait to freshen up and go out and compete! The team is looking very strong, which is very exciting!”

The Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland under-23 women are targeting the defence of an impressive team title in Slovenia 2011; in fact, since the inauguration of this category in 2006, they remain unbeaten and are arguably the second strongest team behind their junior counterparts.

Form athlete and Trials winner Jess Coulson (Mick Woods), a European Cross junior team gold medallist in 2006, will be looking to continue the form which saw her finish as first European in the recent IX Cross de Atapuerca in Burgos, Spain, while Hannah Walker (Bud Baldaro), runner-up in the Trial and seventh in Slovenia 12 months ago, also has an individual medal chance.

In accordance with the selection policy, the top five in each of the senior Trials, with consideration given to under-23s finishing in automatic senior selection spots, were selected.

Jonathan Taylor (Gordon Surtees) won the men’s Trial event in Liverpool in arguably his best ever performance, while Andy Vernon (Nic Bideau) and Steve Vernon (Dave Turnbull) finished second and third respectively to secure their places on the team. Vernon (Andy) finished ninth in Slovenia in 2011 – the best placed Aviva GB & NI athlete in that event as the team collectively achieved silver – and will hope to match or better that on this occasion.

Tom Farrell (Dave Smith), who had an impressive top ten finish in the NCAA Cross Country Championships (17 November) in addition to posting 13:15:31 for 5000m earlier in the summer, was unable to make the trip back to the UK for the Trial, but was selected onto the team in the discretionary sixth position based on current form.

In the senior women’s event, Louise Damen (self coached), the 2010 Trials winner and a European Cross team silver medallist that same year, finished third overall in Liverpool but was a clear winner in the senior category. She will lead by example in a squad that includes McCain Bristol Cross Challenge winner Caryl Jones (George Edwards), who was 10th on her Aviva GB & NI debut at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, as they bid to finish in the top two teams for the tenth successive year.

In the men’s under-23 squad, AFD’s Jonny Hay (Mick Woods) raced to victory in Liverpool and is backed up by 2009 European Junior Cross Country medallists Nick Goolab (Steve Sharp) and James Wilkinson (Phil Townsend) - the latter a silver medallist in this category 12 months ago.

Ian Bailey (Mick Woods) won the junior men’s Trial, but US-based Kieran Clements (Ricardo Santos), a top-ten finisher and team gold medallist in the European Junior Cross Country 12 months ago, could make most impact at this level in Budapest, although as a team they’ll have to be at their best to make it four successive victories.

Aviva GB & NI Senior Men’s Team Manager Terrence Mahon said: “This will be my first European Cross and I’m looking forward to getting to know the athletes. As a team we have a very strong record in this event. We’ve finished top of the medal table for the last four years and have achieved a clean sweep of medals on three occasions in the last four years.

“I hope that tradition can continue this year and cap off an exciting and successful year for endurance running in the UK.”

AVIVA GB & NI TEAM

SENIOR MEN

Tom Farrell (Dave Smith) – Border/Oklahoma State; Keith Gerrard (Art Acevedo) – Newham & Essex Beagles; Tom Humphries (Phil Clamp) – Cannock & Stafford; Jonathan Taylor (Gordon Surtees) - Morpeth; Andy Vernon (Nic Bideau) - Aldershot, Farnham & District; Steve Vernon (Dave Turnbull) – Stockport;

SENIOR WOMEN

Elle Baker (Dave Turnbull) – Stockport; Louise Damen (self) - Winchester; Caryl Jones (George Edwards) – Swansea Harriers; Rosie Smith (Bryan Mackay)– Durham; Emily Wicks (Keith Donkin) – AFD; Katrina Wootton (Harvey Rose) - Coventry

UNDER-23 MEN

Nick Goolab (Steve Sharp) – Belgrave; Dewi Griffiths (Kevin Evans) – Swansea Harriers; Jonny Hay (Mick Woods) - AFD; Simon Horsfield (Norman Poole) – Sale Harriers Manchester; Scott McDonald (Derek Easton) – Central AC; James Wilkinson (Phil Townsend) – Leeds City AC

UNDER-23 WOMEN

Hannah Alderson (Alan Thomas) – Yate; Jess Coulson (Mick Woods) – Stockport; Lauren Howarth (Peter Riley) – Leigh Harriers; Lily Partridge (Mick Woods) - AFD; Beth Potter (Mick Woods) – Shaftesbury Barnet; Hannah Walker (Bud Baldaro) - Birchfield

JUNIOR MEN

Ian Bailey (Mick Woods) – AFD; Kieran Clements (Ricardo Santos) - Ipswich; Charlie Grice (Jon Bigg) – Brighton Phoenix; Charlie Hulson (Paul Roden) – Sale Harriers Manchester; William Paulson (Chris Frapwell) – Stroud AC; Luke Traynor (Dudley Walker) – Giffnock North

JUNIOR WOMEN

Rhona Auckland (Joyce Hogg) – Banchory & Stonehaven; Alex Clay (Peter Mullervy) – Invicta East Kent; Emelia Gorecka (Mick Woods) - AFD; Jessica Judd (Rob Denmark) – Chelmsford; Annabel Mason (John Mason) – Wakefield; Jenny Walsh (Deborah Rowlands) - Spenborough