04 January 2013
Hometown favourite Freya Ross (coach: Steve Jones) insists she is not feeling the pressure of an expectant home crowd as she prepares to run in her fifth Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country tomorrow in the picturesque Holyrood Park, as part of a strong Great Britain and Northern Ireland team that will take on Team Europe and the USA.
The 29-year-old, who has successfully defended the Scottish cross country title for the past four years, has brushed aside any thought of nerves as she follows up an excellent fifth place finish at last year’s event on the same course.
“I always love running in Edinburgh. I went to university here, I grew up not far from the city and I know Holyrood Park quite well. It’s really nice running in front of your home crowd so tomorrow I just want to feel like I’ve gone out and run hard and hopefully finish fairly high, with a good team result as well.”
The 2012 Olympic marathon runner is likewise unfazed by racing so soon after the festive period and insists that she enjoys the different training atmosphere over the Christmas break and is ready to put in a strong performance tomorrow.
“I had a really nice time over Christmas and New Year but was training every day as well. I quite like that though, I think it’s good to try to have some kind of a routine. It’s nice just running with people at that time of year when everyone has a bit more time on their hands.
“I just want to go out and give it my best shot in front of my home crowd tomorrow. Hopefully everybody’s now starting to get excited about Glasgow 2014 and will be cheering on all of the Scottish athletes here.”
British women’s team captain tomorrow, Julia Bleasdale (Nic Bideau), enjoyed a superb 2012 that was capped off by eighth place finishes in the 5,000m and 10,000m finals at London 2012, and with the World Cross Country Championships high on her agenda for 2013, she is looking for a sound first race of the year tomorrow in preparation for a successful winter.
“I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to my first cross country race in over 12 months now. I can’t wait to get running in the mud and working incredibly hard and seeing where I’m at.”
The 31-year-old is thrilled to be leading a strong British women’s outfit and with a junior team also competing earlier in the day, Bleasdale is keen to pass on as much advice and encouragement as possible.
“It’s a great honour to be women’s team captain here and I’m looking forward to encouraging the girls to work well as a team and put in a really strong performance. I believe we’ve got a good chance of lifting the team trophy if we run as a united front.”
After a year to remember for all involved in British athletics, Bleasdale insists that she is excited to progress even further on the world scene going forwards – and has not suffered a dip in enthusiasm post-2012.
“There are lots of challenges ahead so it hasn’t been hard to pick myself back up. I really want to make the progression to being a true medal contender at global championships. My two focuses this year are the Moscow World Championships and the World Cross Country Championships so this will be a great start to the New Year and a good stepping stone to those major champs.”
GB & NI men’s captain Steve Vernon (Dave Turnbull) secured a top-10 finish in December’s European Cross Country Championships and following a seventh place finish in Edinburgh last year against a world-class field, is hoping to reach even greater heights tomorrow.
“It was so close here last year – I think I was only about seven seconds off a podium place - so I want to be top five tomorrow. That would be a good run, although I could finish tenth and it still be a decent run.
“I’m not as sharp as I was at the Europeans four weeks ago because at this time of year, my goal is the World Cross Country Championships in March. But we’ll see what the course brings tomorrow and how good the Americans are. I’m going to get out there and aim for a top five finish though.”
As a cross country veteran and team captain, Vernon has high hopes that the British squad can repeat last year’s performance and come away with the overall victory. He sees last month’s medal-topping GB & NI team at the European Championships as evidence that the talent is there to do so.
“There was nothing between us Brits at the Europeans – I was only a few seconds ahead of Jonathan Taylor, five or six seconds ahead of Andy [Vernon] – so if we pack like that this weekend we have a good chance of winning the team title.”
The International Challenge between the GB & NI team, the United States and Team Europe for all age groups is the 4th leg of this winter's IAAF World Cross Permit series and will be broadcast live on BBC One on Saturday from 13:00 to 14:30.
In addition to the UKA web report, you can also keep up to date with results via Twitter at @UKA_athletics
Full Great Britain and Northern Ireland team (in alphabetical order):
Kieran Clements (Ricardo Santos)
Dewi Griffiths (Kevin Evans)
Neilson Hall (Philip O’Dell)
Andrew Heyes (Keith Whitelam)
Adam Hickey (Eamonn Martin)
Simon Horsfield (Norman Poole)
Tom Humphries (Phil Clamp)
Patrick Martin (Dave Turnbull)
Scott McDonald (Derek Easton)
Jonathan Taylor (Gordon Surtees)
Andy Vernon (Nic Bideau)
Steve Vernon (Dave Turnbull)
Elle Baker (Dave Turnbull)
Julia Bleasdale (Nic Bideau)
Katie Brough (Michael Hancock)
Jessica Coulson (Mick Woods)
Lauren Deadman (Bill Foster)
Lauren Howarth (Peter Riley)
Lily Partridge (Mick Woods)
Beth Potter (Mick Woods)
Freya Ross (Steve Jones)
Rosie Smith (Bryan Mackay)
Stephanie Twell (Mick Woods)
Emily Wicks (Keith Donkin)
Jonathan Davies (Rob McKim)
Matthew Fayers (Stevan Dokic)
Calum Johnson (John Stephenson)
William Paulson (Christopher Frapwell)
Henry Pierce (Mark Hookway)
Benedict Westhenry (Tom Watson)
Alex Clay (Peter Mullervy)
Bobby Clay (James Roberts)
Emelia Gorecka (Mick Woods)
Jessica Judd (Rob Denmark)
Annabel Mason (John Mason)
Rebecca Weston (James Roberts)