6th March 2020
LOUGHBOROUGH SET FOR SCINTILLATING CROSS CHALLENGE FINALE
Mahamed Mahamed (county: Hampshire) and Kate Avery (North East) will look to retain their Inter Counties Championship titles this weekend at Loughborough’s Prestwold Hall as the series draws to a close.
The meet, which signals an end to the 2019/2020 British Athletics Cross Challenge series, sees the best runners from regions up and down the UK descend on Loughborough, looking to come away with the honour of being named county champions, as well as seeing the Cross Challenge series champions crowned.
Defending men’s series champion Mahamed leads the way in the senior men’s standings with 108 points and is hoping to become the first man to win three successive Cross Challenge titles since Andy Vernon in 2011.
Inter counties champion Adam Hickey (Eamonn Martin; Essex) is hoping to defend his crown on this course as he continues his preparations towards the London Marathon, and could take his first title in five years if he betters Mahamed’s result by at least two places.
Alex Teuten (Roderick Lock; Hampshire) will look to flank Mahamed in helping Hampshire to a strong team finish, while Euro Cross senior men’s team gold medallist Tom Evans (Allison Benton; Sussex) races for the first time in 2020, hoping for his first win on grass of the series.
Like Mahamed, defending senior women’s champion Avery is looking to retain her title and would become the first woman since Jessica Sparke in 2011 to do so as she looks for her first finals win since 2016 in Birmingham.
Jess Judd (Mick Judd; Essex), who was the inaugural winner of this meeting back in 2017, will hope to earn a second series win having been victorious at the European Cross Country trial in Liverpool last year.
Abbie Donnelly (Rob Lewis; Lincolnshire) will hope to stake her claim to the title and back up her second place finish in Stirling, while Yorkshire will be looking to defend their team title having won four of the last six finals, Claire Duck (Mike Baxter) leads their charge.
With Under-20 men series leader Matt Willis (self; Wrexham) and defending champion Zakariya Mahamed (Hampshire) stepping up to the senior men’s race, Josh Dickinson (Andrew Henderson; Yorkshire) and Matt Stonier (Peter Mullervy; Kent) have the chance to win their maiden Cross Challenge titles.
Dickinson will also be hoping to spearhead Yorkshire’s charge towards a third team title in a row, while Stonier, a Euro Cross team gold medallist from Lisbon, will also have to hold off the challenge of British U20 1500m indoor record holder Thomas Keen (Mark Vile; Cambridgeshire), 2019 U17 course champion Sam Charlton (Paddy Dinsmore; North East) and Hamish Armitt (Scotland West), bidding for his first win of the series having won the U17 crown last year.
A stacked women’s equivalent will see a new champion crowned with European Cross Country U20 team gold medallists Cera Gemmell (John Lees; Scotland East), Eloise Walker (Andy Young Scotland East), Olivia Mason (Graeme Mason; Cumbria) and Megan Keith (Ross Cairns; Scotland North) the favourites.
Gemmell and Walker, who will hope to defend the team title for Scotland East, and Mason are all locked on 56 points heading into the final meeting of the series, with Keith two points further back on 54. Meanwhile, reigning series and course champion Grace Brock (self; Cornwall) is named in the Cornwall team and will look for victory on her return to the UK.
Maya Todd-McIntyre (Graham Moffatt; Nottinghamshire) goes in search of a first series title in the Under-17 women’s race, flanked by Nottinghamshire teammate Lauren McNeil (Richard Massey) as they look to secure a first team title this side of the millennium.
Anna Hedley (Mick Woods; Scotland East), who won in both Liverpool and Stirling, will hope to make it three wins in a row in Loughborough, whilst Freya Stapleton (Jeremy Sothcott; Hertfordshire) is also in the hunt for a first Cross Challenge crown as Yorkshire search for a third straight team title.
Devon trio Flynn Jennings, Johnny Livingstone and Oliver Smart look to have given their county the best possible chance of winning the team event, but with all three locked on 57 points, it’s winner takes all as far as the individual standings are concerned.
Jenson Connell (Richard Massey; Nottinghamshire) isn’t out of the hunt either, trailing the trio by just a point, with Archie Lowe (North East) and Louis Small (Kent) both hoping to spring a surprise, the latter won on the 4km loop in last year’s Under-15s race.
Kiya Dee (Gloucestershire) will put her unblemished record on the line for the final time as she aims for an unbeaten season in the U15 girls race, but will face strong competition once again from Elsie Robinson (Stephen Robinson; Leicestershire & Rutland). Scarlett Livingstone (Devon) and Valencia Wright (Scotland West) will again toe the line, looking to cause an upset.
In another three-way tie at the top of the Under-15 boys standings, Benjamin Peck, Lewis Sullivan (Both Suffolk) and Christopher Perkins (North East) lock horns for the title. All have 56 points to their names, with Jake Wilson (Andrew Carter; Cheshire) and Frank Morgan (Carol Jones; West Wales) following close behind on 55 and 54 points respectively.
Having won each of the last three series meetings, Alden Collier (Nick Hughes; Buckinghamshire) can claim his first ever Cross Challenge title this weekend, but Iwan Thomas (Neil Thomas; West Wales) and Charlie Hague (Devon) can still stake their claims for the crown.
In the women’s equivalent, Zoe Gilbody (Shropshire) will hope to make it an unbeaten series as she aims for a fifth consecutive win, with fellow rivals Savana Smith (Leicestershire & Rutland), Molly Shorey (Devon) and Scarlett Williams (Staffordshire) looking to chase her down and end the season on a high.
The programme kicks off with the Under-20 Men’s race at 11am, with the senior men’s race closing the programme at 2:45pm.