17 January 2010
Andy Vernon (Aldershot Farnham & District) and Hatti Dean (Hallamshire) were the main senior winners at todays McCain UK Cross Challenge at Cardiff.
The race to the 2010 World Cross Country Championships started in style on Sunday 17th January with the Cardiff Cross Country, the third round of the McCain Cross Challenge.
The fast, flat course in the Cardiff Castle grounds, on terrain that held surprisingly well after last week’s poor weather, helped some impressive performances in what turned out to be a great day of running, with an Inter-Area Match, Schools Invitational races and Primary School races also part of the programme.
Senior Men’s pre-race favourite Andy Vernon didn’t leave spaces for surprises as he controlled his race, opening a gap from the rest of the leading pack in the early stages and never looking back. The athlete said: “At first I set off with the aim of sitting in the group and seeing how things went on. I found myself with Rowan Hooper from New Zealand, and since I had no idea of what he was capable of I decided to test him: in the second lap, I gave some little bursts in the fast sections, no reaction came and I opened a gap.” The 2009 Inter Counties champion and European Cross Country representative, who is aiming at European Championships and Commonwealth Games participation on the track in 2010, reckons his race was won with that early break. “I kept pushing for another lap, and I opened a decent gap: no one tried to come with me so I just kept on going!”
As Vernon sped away from the pack, a fierce battle opened for the positions right behind, with five athletes closing the race within six seconds of each other: Tom Russell (South West of England) gained the upper hand over Peter Riley (North of England), local favourite Alex Hains (Cardiff AAC) and Aldershot Farnham & District’s Stephen Scullion, with Kevin Heywood closing this group.
The Senior Women race saw another predicted winner not failing to disappoint; former UK Steeplechase record holder Hatti Dean (Hallamshire Harriers) produced a dominant display against a quality field, setting her own pace right from the gun and opening a significant gap in the first lap. “I probably went off a bit hard” said Dean after the race, “I felt quite good in the first part and I just went for it, I wanted to keep the rhythm going. I felt it a lot in the second part of the race but I tried to keep going, I had enough of a lead and I could relax a bit. All in all, I thought my race went very well, feeling good at the start gave me so much confidence.”
Behind Dean, a South Wales derby was set up by Cardiff AAC’s Ava Hutchinson and Swansea Harriers’ Andrea Whitcombe – the pair swapping positions for most of the race until Hutchinson finally opened an 11-second gap in the last lap.
In the Junior competition, Annabel Gummow (Bristol & West) and Richard Goodman (Shaftesbury Barnet) fulfilled the pre-race expectations with convincing displays. For Gummow, it represents a welcome redemption after the disappointment suffered in the Liverpool stage: “I really wanted to race again, as I had a pretty disastrous race there. I wanted to get into the team for the Europeans, but I twisted my ankle the day before the race and on the actual day I was unable to finish the course. Today I felt really comfortable, I got a good sprint at the end of the race and I am now in the position to think about some more races before Birmingham (World XC trials), where I hope to impress!”
For Goodman, the success in Cardiff adds up to his previous victory in Liverpool. The young, talented athlete, whose aim is the World Championships in Poland next year, enjoyed his race throughout: “The ground was superb, it felt like running on a cricket pitch and the support from the crowd was great too! I am 16 and racing with Under 20s: I respect all those athletes a lot, but I felt good and just went for it – no one chose to come with me.”
Goodman was followed by Dewi Griffiths of Wales and Jonathan Hope of Aldershot Farnham, while Annabel Gummow led home Claire Pring (City of Norwich) and Ruth Haynes (Aldershot).
For full results from the day’s races download the file below.