24 October 2013
The British Athletics Cross Challenge Series returns on Sunday, with Bristol's Ashton Court hosting the first fixture of the 2013-14 season.
Dewi Griffiths (coach: Kevin Evans) will look to retain the senior men’s title he won there last year but will face a tough task as he takes on some of the UK’s best cross country runners over the challenging 8km course.
The 22 year old won in a time of 29:44 in 2012 but just nine seconds behind him was 2012-13 Cross Challenge Series winner Frank Tickner (Clive Thomas) who will hope to turn the tables on his young rival this time around.
Another youngster who is likely to be in the mix is Richard Goodman (Mick Woods), who after two years out through injury returned with a victory at the Metropolitan League last weekend. The former European Junior Cross Country Championship silver medallist will hope to continue his comeback with a good run in Bristol.
Two other Mick Woods-coached youngsters will get their cross country seasons underway at Ashton Court. Jonny Hay (Woods) ran one of the quickest legs at the National 6 Stage in Sutton Park earlier this month and is always a danger on the mud and hills, whilst national under 23 5,000m champion Adam Clarke (Woods) will hope to transfer his track success to cross country.
A competitive senior men’s field also includes GB & NI international James Walsh (Mike Baxter), Matt Bond (Norman Poole), who was part of the recent Sale Harriers National 6 Stage winning team, and 19 year old Weynay Ghebresilasie who has a 3000m personal best of 7.54.
Caryl Jones (George Edwards), the senior women’s champion in 2012, doesn’t return to defend her title however last year's runner-up Hannah Brooks (Bud Baldaro) will have an opportunity to capitalise on Jones' absence and take victory this time around.
The field is a strong one though, and another athlete who will be targeting victory is IAAF World Mountain Running Championship silver medallist and 2013 English National fourth placer Emma Clayton (Andrew Henderson). She will be joined on the start line by fellow mountain runner Sarah Tunstall, who was eighth at the IAAF World Mountain Running Championships in Poland as well as 2012-13 Cross Challenge Series runner up Katie Brough (Andrew Carter).
A couple of other names to look out for are GB & NI internationals Stevie Stockton (George Gandy) and Gemma Kersey (Eamonn Martin) who both have cross country pedigree to go alongside their track credentials, whilst 2013 Midlands cross country champion Juliet Potter (Roy Stowell) should also be in the mix.
Defending Bristol and overall series winner from 2012-13, Jonathan Davies (Rob McKim), will start as the big favourite in the under 20 men’s race. Davies won a bronze medal over 5,000m at the European Junior Championships in Rieti in July and set a personal best of 14:09.46 to top the British junior rankings. His pedigree is further underlined by his 36th place finish at the World Cross Country Championships in March, with his current form adding further weight to the argument, having set the second quickest overall time at the National 6 Stage relays earlier this month.
The biggest challenge to Davies may come from Tom Hook (Tim Ash) of City of Norwich A.C who set track personal bests of 8:21 and 14:36 over 3,000m and 5,000m respectively this summer. Ben Bradley (Woods) improved his best 5,000m time to 14:49 and will have his sights set on one of the top places on Sunday.
The Invicta East Kent AC trio of Bobby Clay, Alex Clay and Rebecca Weston (all Peter Mullervy), who all represented GB & NI at the World Cross Country Championships in Poland in March, lead the field in the under 20 women’s race. 16 year old Bobby Clay was first of the three home in Bydgoszcz in 27th place with her sister Alex in 35th and Weston splitting the siblings in finishing 33rd.
The other main contenders in the junior women’s race at Bristol should include Becky Straw (Bud Baldaro), who was first in Antrim and third in Cardiff last season, Rachael Dunn, who was fifth in the overall 2012-13 series, English Schools 800m champion Loren Bleaken (Adrian Clover) and English Schools 3,000m runner-up Amy Griffiths (Mick Woods).
There is a full compliment of races at Ashton Court, with proceeding being kicked off by the under 11 boys at 11am.
For more information on the British Athletics Cross Challenge click here.