8th December 2018
BRITISH TEAM SETTING SIGHTS ON TOPPING MEDAL TABLE ONCE MORE AT EURO CROSS
A full 40-strong British team will be looking to top the European Cross Country Championship table for the 12th time in 13 years as they head to Tilburg, the Netherlands, this weekend.
Seven-time Euro Cross medallist and twice senior silver medallist Kate Avery (club: Shildon) will captain the British team in the Netherlands as she earns a first British vest since 2016, with trial winners Charlotte Arter (coach: Chris Jones; club: Cardiff) Jake Heyward (James Thie; Cardiff) and Ross Millington (Steve Vernon; Stockport) adding to the British firepower.
A stacked senior men’s field sees Millington and 12-time Euro Cross medallist go up against Kaan Kigen Ozbilen (TUR), who is back to defend his title in the Netherlands.
Last year’s silver medallist Adel Mechaal (ESP) is also expected to be in contention once again after a good track season, while Marc Scott (Jerry Schumacher; Richmond & Zetland) will hope a strong track season stands him in good stead for a positive outcome this year.
Italian Yemaneberhan Crippa has claimed four individual medals in the last five Championships and has boycotted the Under-23 race in favour of the seniors.
Like the men, the British team will be expecting a team medal in the senior women’s race and their charge will be led by Arter, who took victory at the trials ahead of Verity Ockenden (Tony Houchin; Swansea) in a close fought race.
Yasemin Can (TUR) is hoping to make history by becoming the first woman to claim three consecutive senior titles, while Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal (NOR) and European 5000m silver medallist Susan Krumins (NED) will be well in the mix.
British team captain Avery and Jess Piasecki (Robert Hawkins; Stockport) have enjoyed a Cross Country resurgence in 2018, whilst Melissa Courtney (Rob Denmark; Poole AC) will be targeting another gold following her mixed relay triumph last year.
Heading in as mixed relay as defending champions, the pressure is on Jamie Williamson (George Gandy; Springburn), Alex Bell (Andrew Henderson; Pudsey & Bramley), Philip Sesemann (Andrew Henderson; Leeds City AC) and Jess Judd (Mick Judd; Blackburn) to continue British dominance in the event.
Under-23 four-time team gold medallist and twice individual medallist Judd will run the anchor leg for the team, with Williamson, earning his first British vest, kicking things off.
The biggest threat is likely to come from a Belgium team that contains former Under-23 champion Pieter-Jan Hannes, who is returning to form after injury, and Elise Vanderelst, who lowered her 1500m PB to 4:05.75 this summer.
The men’s Under-23s race will be headlined by France’s Jimmy Gressier, who is looking to become the first man to claim consecutive titles. Four-time medallist Mahamed Mahamed (Peter Haynes; Southampton AC) and double team bronze medallist Patrick Dever (Andy Bibby; Preston) will hope to stake a claim for the medals.
The women’s equivalent sees a return to the British team for Lydia Turner (Thomas Millmore; Birtley) for the first time since 2014, where she claimed a team gold and individual bronze medal, with Amy Griffiths (Rob Denmark; AFD) hoping to add to her own fifth place finish and team gold last year.
Having taken bronze last year in the Under-20s race, Miriam Dattke (GER) will pose a threat for the medal places, while Anna Emilie Moller (DEN), who claimed Under-20 silver in 2016 and victory in Cardiff in October, will be well in contention for the top three.
European Under-20 1500m champion Heyward will face Jakob Ingebrigtsen (NOR) for the third time in 2018, having previously crossed paths at the Oslo, Diamond League, and in Tampere, Finland, for the World Junior Championships.
The Norwegian is searching for his third straight Under-20 European Cross Country title to add to his European 1500m and 5000m gold medals, World Junior 1500m silver & 5000m bronze, while Heyward is aiming to follow-up his stellar win in Burgos, with victory in Tilburg.
Fellow World Junior finalist Elzan Bibic (SRB) will be in the mix for a spot on the podium, with Matt Willis (self; Wrexham) looking to improve on his 14th place finish from last year that saw him as the first Brit home.
Khahisa Mhlanga (Mick Judd; Herts Phoenix) and Cari Hughes (Andy Walling; Swansea) will hope to add another team gold medal to their collection following success last year in Samorin, Slovakia, with the equally strong Amelia Quirk (Mick Woods; Bracknell AC) taking Under-20 team gold in 2016.
Jasmin Lau (NED) will pose tough opposition following her fourth-place finish in 2017, with Ireland’s Sarah Healy, who took European Under 18 1500m and 3000m gold in Gyor, Hungary, another contender for the podium.
The action gets underway from 9:45am GMT and is available to watch on the BBC Sport website from 9:30am tomorrow.