18th January 2019


The fourth leg of the British Athletics Cross Challenge series heads to Dundonald, Northern Ireland, this weekend for the Northern Ireland International, the penultimate meet in the series.

The meet, which also serves as an IAAF International, moves from Antrim, where it has been held since 2009, and will see strong international competition hop over the Irish Sea to challenge the best home nations runners.

Current Cross Challenge series leader Kate Avery (club: Shildon) heads to Northern Ireland looking to strengthen her lead at the top, with Emily Hosker-Thornhill (coach: Mick Woods; club: Aldershot, Farnham & District), who pipped Avery to eighth at the Great Stirling XCountry, back on the grass once again.

2017 series champion Emelia Gorecka (Chris Thompson; Aldershot, Farnham & District) returns to the Cross Country circuit for the first time in over a year, her last race being the 2018 Great Edinburgh XCountry.

Junior women’s team gold medallists from Tilburg, Cari Hughes (Andy Walling; Swansea) and Anna MacFadyen (John Lees; Forres) will face off against each other in the Under-23 division, representing Wales and Scotland respectively. As they are competing in the senior race, they will receive three points for completing the race.

International prowess comes in the form of Kenya’s Pauline Kamulu, who claimed individual bronze and team silver at the IAAF World Half Marathon championships in Valencia, and Sandra Chebet Tuei, the former World Youth silver medallist.

With senior men’s series leader Mahamed Mahamed (Peter Haynes; Southampton AC) absent, Charlie Hulson (Chris Jones; Liverpool) and Adam Hickey (Eamonn Martin; Southend) will hope to close the gap to the defending series champion in Dundonald.

Sam Stabler (Rob Denmark; Wreake & Soar Valley) returns to action for the first time since September, whilst Alex Teuten (Roderick Lock; Southampton AC) will hope to follow up 10K personal best in Telford last month with a strong performance in Northern Ireland.

The international presence this year comes from Rio Olympics silver and triple world 10,000m bronze medallist Paul Tanui (KEN), and Richard Yator (KEN), the second fastest man over 10,000m in 2018.

2018 European Cross Country junior men’s team silver medallist Matt Willis (self; Wrexham) is the standout name in the men’s Under-20 field, with Zakariya Mahamed (Peter Haynes; Southampton), who sits just behind Willis in the Cross Challenge standings, also looking to force his way to the top, above current leader Jake Heyward (James Thie; Cardiff).

European Youth 1500m champion Kane Elliott (William Sharp; Falkirk) showed his good early season form in Stirling last weekend and will be another challenging for the top positions.

The women’s Under-17/Under-20 race offers Grace Brock (Cornwall AC) a chance to close the gap to Khahisa Mhlanga (Mick Judd; Herts Phoenix) at the top of the standings, the latter is not racing in Belfast.

Brock will race British teammate from Stirling Charlotte Alexander (Wayne Vinton; Herne Hill), who earned her second British vest last weekend, and heads the Under-17 standings.

Cera Gemmell (Henry Muchamore; Team East Lothian), who sits fourth in the standings behind Alexander, will also be aiming to reduce the deficit to the leaders, while Under-15 girls champion Lily-Jane Evans-Haggerty (Victoria Park City of Glasgow) will look to return to form in Northern Ireland.

Nicolas Harhalkis (Mark Vile; Cambridge & Coleridge) can overtake Archie May at the top of the Under-17 boys standings with a strong performance, but won’t have things all his own way as Matthew Mackay (Graham Wright; Rossendale) will add to the challenge.

The latter is seventh in the standings following strong hauls at Liverpool and Milton Keynes and is looking to build on opening up the season with Under-17 Lancashire County Championship victory.

Faye O’Hare (Liverpool Harriers) and Moli Lyons (Arwyn Davies; Cardiff) are the standout names in the field and the latter can move atop the standings with a good run, while Fraser Sproul (Kendal AAC) and Alex Melloy (Cambridge & Coleridge) will hope to continue their good starts to 2019 on the grass in the under-15 boys race.

In the Under-13 girls race, Isabella Wrightham (Wreake & Soar Valley) has a golden chance to climb the Cross Challenge standings with the top three not in action, while Isaac Morris (Cambridge & Coleridge) build a stronger lead in the boys’ equivalent. Callum Morgan (Maldwyn Harriers), who sits 25 points behind in third, will be his nearest competition.

The first race of the day is the Under-13 Girls, which commences at 10:55am. The programme draws to a close with the senior international men at 2:50pm.