9 March 2013
Louise Damen (self-coached) and Frank Tickner (Clive Thomas) took the senior titles at the McCain World Cross Trials incorporating the Inter Counties and McCain Challenge Final. Hundreds of athletes overcame testing conditions at Birmingham’s Cofton Park as the mud worsened over the day’s ten races.
Senior Women – 8km
Louise Damen (self-coached) continued an impressive cross country season by winning her first ever senior Inter Counties Cross Country title in 26:58, adding to the titles that she took as an Under-17 and Under-20.
The Hampshire athlete, who won the English championships two weeks ago by a minute, took the lead with 2km to go and built a 50m gap by the time she crossed the line.
Elle Baker (Dave Turnbull) finished second in 27:06, 18 seconds ahead of Gemma Steel (John Nuttall), with Euro Cross teammates Emily Wicks (Keith Donkin) (27:28), Steph Twell (Mick Woods) (27:30) and Lily Partridge (Mick Woods) (27:34) following soon after. European Under-23 Cross Country Champion Jess Coulson (Mick Woods) finished in ninth place in 27:58.
It was Baker, second at the Northern Cross Champs recently, who had led the way for much of the race. A high calibre pack of eight GB internationals broke away in the early stages of the race but it was not until the 6km mark that the decisive move was made. Baker pushed the pace with Damen and was the only athlete able to keep up as both women fought for their first senior Inter Counties titles. Damen stamped her authority on the race within the final kilometre however, forming an insurmountable gap and looking comfortable as she came home eight seconds clear of the Greater Manchester athlete.
The 30 year old headlined a narrow team victory for Hampshire too as their top six finishers saw them end on 151 points, three ahead of Surrey, who were led by fourth placer Emily Wicks. Yorkshire took third place on 190 with Emma Clayton leading the way for them in seventh place.
Damen’s first place finish confirmed her overall McCain Cross Challenge Series victory, was understandably upbeat after another stand-out race.
“I'm delighted to have won, but it was really tough. The girls pushed me all the way.
“I didn't feel good at all today and didn't think I had the legs but luckily I had a little bit of strength at the end to pull me through to hang on. All credit to Elle (Baker) who pushed me hard in the middle stages. To get the victory on a day where I didn't feel great, I'm really pleased.
“I'm chuffed with the overall series victory too. It's good to get that in the bag as well as the race here today.
“All being well, my target is World Cross but I'll have to see what the selectors say. That's definitely my focus though.”
Senior Men – 12km
In the last race of the day, Frank Tickner (Clive Thomas) led from start to finish to win the senior men’s 12km and in doing so, secured the overall McCain Cross Challenge Series victory. Tickner, who went into the race tied with Andy Vernon (Nic Bideau) in the standings, crossed the line in a time of 33:54 to secure his first Inter-Counties title.
Steve Vernon (Dave Turnbull) crossed the line in second place (34:05), with 2011 winner Andy Vernon finishing six seconds behind his namesake to complete the podium positions.
Tickner got off to a strong start with Steve Vernon, Jonathan Taylor (Gordon Surtees) and Mike Skinner (Andrew Hobdell) forming a breakaway group after six kilometres, with Andy Vernon, returning from injury, leading the charge to bridge the gap on the leading four athletes.
With five kilometres to go, Tickner and Steve Vernon increased their advantage, with Taylor and Skinner unable to match the burst from the leading duo. Andy Vernon continued to move up the field, catching Taylor and Skinner to move up into third place and a podium spot.
Tickner continued to assert his dominance in the closing stages, moving away from Steve Vernon to open up a considerable lead going into the last three kilometres. The 29 year old extended his advantage further with the finish line in his sights, crossing the line in a time of 33:54.
North East were first in the team standings, followed by Yorkshire in second and Scotland East in third.
Tickner was delighted with both the victory on the day and the overall series prize.
“I’m very pleased, I can’t say I expected it. It was a tough way to have done it but it was nice to have beaten some of the guys that were there at the National because I wasn’t there. It was nice to get into a race where most of the key figures are there.
“The win took over my thoughts but I’m really pleased to have won the overall series, that’s the cherry on the cake really.
“I’ll find out next week about World Cross, if I’m selected I’ll look forward to that and then I’m quite keen to try out a half marathon and make the most of the miles in my legs.”
Under-20 Women – 6km
Emelia Gorecka (Mick Woods) won an incredible seventh Inter-Counties Cross Country title as she raced to a convincing victory in the Under-20 Women’s race at Cofton Park.
The World Junior 3,000m bronze medallist set a strong pace from the gun and broke the field up from the early stages. A large chasing group attempted to follow her including three Kent athletes - Bobby and Alex Clay (both Peter Mullervy) as well as Rebecca Weston (James Roberts) - and Under-17 athlete Annabel Mason.
As Gorecka began to run clear she was tracked by 15 year old Bobby Clay, but eventually opened up a lead, which continued to grow until she completed the 6,000m course in a time of 19:41.
Clay held on for second place overall in a time of 20:07, just ahead of triathlete Georgia Taylor-Brown (Paul Roden) of Greater Manchester, who recently finished fourth in the English National Cross Country Championships and took gold at the North of England Championships. Amy-Eloise Neale having flown in all the way from Seattle, made the journey worthwhile with a strong performance to finish fourth.
With three runners in the top six positions, Kent were runaway winners of the team prize with 48 points, ahead of Warwickshire with 82 and Cheshire with 112.
Gorecka, who now looks ahead to the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Poland on March 24th, was delighted with yet another victory at this event having recovered from an illness earlier in the week.
“I am really happy with the way I performed. I had flu last week, so I was out of training for five days, which made today more nerve-wracking than usual.
“Every time I stand on the start line of domestic championships I really want to win, so that’s what I was focussed on today.
“I came 15th two years ago at the World Cross and everyone wants to progress on what they did last time. I’m not setting myself any limits; I want to challenge the Africans and whoever is up there because that’s the point of the World Cross – to compete against the best in the world.”
Under-20 Men – 8km
Berkshire’s Jonathan Davies (Rob McKim) followed up his Under-17 victory in this race a year ago with a dominant performance to clinch the win on the day and the overall McCain Cross Challenge title in his first year as a junior. The 18-year-old crossed the line in 24:51 ahead of Yorkshire’s Gordon Benson (Philip Townsend) and Gloucestershire’s Will Paulson (Christopher Frapwell), who were four and seven seconds behind respectively.
After being in contention for much of the race, Lewis Lloyd and Michael Callegari (Nadeem Shaikh) finished fourth and fifth in 25:00 and 25:05 respectively.
Despite a torrid week of rain in the West Midlands leaving the course soft underfoot, a dry day meant that the first race was run in relatively good conditions. The first 4km saw a leading pack of around 15 athletes bunch together, including Davies and Surrey’s Henry Pearce (Mark Hookway), who had come into the day as the number one and two ranked athletes in this season’s McCain Cross Challenge standings.
Pearce remained in contention with 2km to go as the group narrowed down to seven, with Davies often leading, Benson threatening and Paulson dropping out then returning to the leading group throughout.
Davies, last year’s English Schools champion, stamped his authority in the final kilometre though as he opened up a thirty metre gap at one stage before crossing the line four seconds clear.
Surrey county champion Lewis Lloyd led the way in a dominant win for his county in the team standings, with Henry Pearce’s eventual seventh place helping them finish on 47 points. Essex led home by Chris Youell (Rob Denmark) in tenth in 25:32, took a narrow second place with 125 points ahead of Yorkshire on 127, for whom Benson led the way.
Davies, second at the Southern Championships recently, was content with a successful day’s work and a race that went largely to plan.
“It was good, the pace was relentless really. I was hoping to settle, but had to work the whole way. I always planned to do some work in the last lap and try and get away down the hill & push it. In the end I just sat there and went when I was ready.”
Despite securing his second McCain Cross Challenge race win of the season, Davies was aiming to make up for his disappointment in finishing seventh at the McCain Liverpool Cross Challenge which meant that he missed out on selection for the Euro Cross in December. Davies’ victory today avenges that result and all but books his place on the plane to the Poland for the World Cross Championships, a trip he is keen to make.
“It's great to win it after the disappointment in Liverpool, so it's good to put that behind me. I knew I could run well, but it was just that question of getting it done. I'm hoping to get selected for the World Cross and then move on to the track season after that.”
Thomas Kendrick (Kent) and Katie-Ann McDonald (Surrey) won the Under-13 races, Harriet Knowles-Jones of Cheshire won the Under-15 girls race, Dan Evans won the Under-15 boys, Amy Griffiths (Leicester) won the Under-17 women’s and West Wales’ Jac Hopkins won the Under-17 men’s.
For a full list of results, please visit: