28 March 2009
The junior women’s team came closest to glory for the Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland Team at the Saturday’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Amman, Jordan.
Led by Lauren Howarth (Leigh Harriers) and Charlotte Purdue (Aldershot, Farnham & District), who were the leading Europeans in 13th and 14th, GB & NI placed 4th in the team standings with 82, just six short of bronze medallists Japan. Ethiopia took gold, led by individual gold medallist Genzebe Dibaba and Kenya took silver.
Elsewhere, World junior 1500m champion Stephanie Twell (Aldershot, Farnham & District) found the going tough in her first international as a full-fledged senior, placing 38th on a course which was undulating, but hard underfoot.
Twell was the first Brit home as the team placed 9th in the team contest. Afterwards she said: “To have one of the worst races of my season at the biggest championships is very disappointing. I didn’t feel at all like myself and I’ve just got to draw a line under this and tomorrow is a new day.”
In the senior men’s race, Frank Tickner (Wells City) was the leading British athlete in 79th as the team placed 14th. In the junior men’s race, Tom Farrell (Border Harriers) was the highest British finisher in 58th as GB & NI finished 15th in the team standings.
UKA National Endurance Coach and Team Leader Ian Stewart said: “We are where we are. I think that our junior women ran really well and the junior men were mostly disappointing. You can’t fault our senior men for lack of trying, but I think we have got to work on getting their track times down before they can really challenge.
“As for the senior women, it was a hard lesson for Steph to learn, but she lives to fight another day and I’m sure she will come back stronger in the future. The course today was hard and fast. Really, it was like a 10,000m track race with a hill in the middle.
“I think we have to look again at the way we prepare and select for this event. Every now and then you get a World Cross ran on a traditional English-style cross country course, but very rarely. They are nearly always flat and fast and they are always fast. So we need to look at developing our speed on the track first and foremost, but nothing is insurmountable.”
The GB & NI team packed well right from the opening lap and from being outside the top 100, they gradually worked their way through so that all six placed inside it by the race end. Frank Tickner (Wells City) headed them home in 74th place, moving up by 27 places from his place on lap 2 of the six lap course.
Andy Vernon (Aldershot, Farnham & District) was 78th, Phil Nicholls (Tipton Harriers) 86th, Mike Skinner (Blackheath & Bromley) 87th, Lee Merrien (Newham & Essex) 91st and Keith Gerrard (Newham & Essex) 96th.
Discussing the course, Tickner said: “For me it is the anti-thesis of what I am good at. I’m happy with my run, but my calves are shot to pieces. I’m not really a track runner, but it was track spikes all the way. If I would have brought my flats, I might have worn them.”
Ethiopia made light of the absence of cross country great Kenenisa Bekele as they took individual gold through Gebre-egziabher Gebrem and the team title too.
On her first championship as a fully-fledged senior Stephanie Twell bravely ran within the top 20 for the first half of the race, but eventually faded to 38th. Hatti Dean (Hallamshire Harriers) was 49th, Jane Potter (Charnwood AC) 51st, Sarah Tunstall (Kendal AAC) 55th and Hannah Whitmore (Charnwood AC) 58th. Sonia Samuels (Sale Harriers Manchester) dropped out on the third lap of the four lap race.
Twell said: “To have one of the worst races of my season at the biggest championships is very disappointing. I didn’t feel at all like myself and I’ve just got to draw a line under this and tomorrow is a new day. It’s my first senior World Cross country and I definitely want to get back here and do better next time.
“During the race I felt very flat. It was a good first lap, but it was a tough course. The Kenyans and the rest were very, very strong and I just felt not like myself at all, just very flat. But myself and Mick (Woods, coach) are just both bitterly disappointed.
“There has been a lot of hard work gone into this race – don’t get me wrong, there always is a lot of hard work – but it’s just not the performance we wanted at the ejnd of the day. We’ve just got to pick ourselves up and look for a good performance in the next race.”
Florence Jebet Kiplagat took invidual gold and spearheaded Kenya to team gold as well.
Tom Farrell (Border Harriers) ran solidly for 58th. The other British finishers were Ronnie Sparke (Woodford Green & Essex Ladies) who placed 83rd, James Wilkinson (Leeds City AC) who came 85th and Jonathan Hay (Aldershot, Farnham & District) who was 90th.
Simon Horsfield (East Cheshire Harriers & Tameside AC) and Nick Goolab (Belgrave Harriers) both pulled out on the third of four laps. Farrell said: “I’m very pleased with that. After finishing fifth at Nottingham at the trials and to make top 60 in the world, I’m extremely pleased. It was extremely quick and I just tried to settle into it, get through the first lap and really try go from there.”
Ayele Abshero (Ethiopia) took individual gold, as Kenya grabbed the team prize.
GB & NI just missed out on a team medal after a closely-contested struggle with Japan, who pipped them in the scrap for bronze. Lauren Howarth led the way with an excellent 13th on her World Cross debut. She also finished as leading European, followed closely by team-mate Charlotte Purdue who was 14th.
Kate Avery (Shildon Running) was a creditable 25th, Lily Partridge (Aldershot, Farnham & District) 30th. Louise Small (Aldershot, Farnham & District) 33rd and Laura Park (Ellenborough AC) 75th.
Howarth said: “I was hoping for top 15 so I am really pleased. It set off very slow and then they started working hard on the second lap and I thought I’ve got to go with them and I hung on for as long as I could. I’m really pleased with the result for my first World Cross.
“It was a really tough, but really enjoyable experience. I’ve been improving a lot this year, like at the Nationals, where I managed to stick with Steph (Twell) for quite a lot of it. That was the closest I had been to her in a long time.”