21 January 2012
The Antrim IAAF Cross Country Championships in Greenmout Campus, which included the fourth installment of the McCain Cross Challenge Series, saw a close race between Gemma Steel (coach: John Nuttall) and Ireland’s European Champion Fionnuala Britton.
It was in the last 600 metres of the senior women’s 5.6k race that the closely fought head-to-head contest was decided, with Britton (19:32) getting the better of Steel (19:39).
Up to that point Steel was determined not to make the same mistake as in Edinburgh where she let her Irish rival open an unbeatable gap midway through the race. In Antrim, a proverbial handkerchief covered both women for much of the race with Steel taking the lead for a short period. It was only in the closing stages where the energy sapping mud enabled the stronger Britton to secure victory by seven seconds.
Speaking after the race, Steel said: “I tried different tactics today by taking the race by the scruff of the neck. I gave it much more today from the start as there was no jogging in the early stages."
While, Britton admitted the race was tougher than Edinburgh because of the heavy conditions. The European Chammpion confessed she was pleased with her performance especially struggling in Seville.
Cardiff U20 winner Annabel Gummow (Chris Wooldridge) finished behind four Africans for 7th place in the senior women’s race, setting her up nicely for the English National Cross Country at Parliament Hill in February.
In the senior men’s 10.8k race, Frank Tickner (self) had probably the best cross country race of his life when he split the phalanx of Africans to finish a superb 5th in 35:38.
“Everything is now coming together following injury," said Tickner. "This was another pleasing run following a good performance in Edinburgh.”
Kenyan Mike Kigen again showed his sheer class to record his third consecutive victory from a strong line up from fellow. World Youth silver medallist Patrick Mutunga was 30 seconds in arrears with marathon specialist Bernard Rotich in third.
James Walsh (Mike Baxter) had a close race to the finish line with Jacob Cheshari of Kenya to finish in 9th in 36:57.
After a fine piece of front running from junior Harvey Dixon (Mick Woods) at the McCain Cardiff Cross Challenge last weekend, it was much the same in Antrim after breaking away from local Stephen Kerr of Armagh AC in the Men’s U20 race and taking another victory in 18:34.
In the U20 Women’s Beckie Taylor (Jackie Taylor) finished in third place (15:31) behind Ireland’s Regina Dolan (15:23) and Alice Fennell (15:26).
Full results available here and click on Antrim.