6th January 2018


Verity Ockenden (coach: Tony Houchin, club: Swansea) and Andy Vernon (Nic Bideau, Aldershot Farnham & District) sealed the top British Athletics Cross Challenge points at the Antrim International in Northern Ireland.

Swansea’s Ockenden continued her ever-improving form during this winter season as she was the first Briton across the line in the senior women’s race, placing fourth place overall. As the eventual winner Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi (KEN) pulled away with Fotyen Tesfay (ETH) and Bontu Edao Rebitu (BRN) early on, the Welsh athlete battled hard to secure fourth ahead of Ethopia’s Alemitu Hawi and Ireland’s Fionnuala McCormack – notable names over the terrain – in a frantic finish.

Cambridge & Coleridge’s Charlotte Christensen ran well to place second Cross Challenge finisher ahead of Wales’s Jenny Nesbitt (David Walker, Worcester) who followed closely behind.

The first British finisher in the senior men’s race was Andy Vernon who fought well to pip Swansea’s Kris Jones after a race long battle. For long stages the duo were in the leading group which contained eventual winner Timothy Cheruiyot (KEN), world 1500m silver medallist last year, Mogos Tuemoy (ETH) and Soufiane Elbakkali (MAR). But they could not keep with them on the final lap and settled for fourth and fifth respectively. Luke Traynor was the next eligible Cross Challenge finisher in eighth place.

There was Scottish success in the combined U17/U20 women’s race as Eloise Walker (John Lees) was first home, taking full points in the U20 women’s category. The Edinburgh athlete was a comfortable winner, striding clear to win by 14 seconds over Central’s Kate Gallagher. Third place was Cera Gemmall (Henry Muchamore, Team East Lothian) who subsequently was the victor of the U17 strand of this race.

Ireland’s Jamie Battle won the combined U17/U20 men’s race with Morpeth’s Rory Leonard performing exceptionally for second place overall – the U17 athlete taking full Cross Challenge points in the age group. To put his run into context, he was over 15 seconds ahead of the first British U20 finisher and almost took the overall race victory.

Cambuslang’s Gavin Smith secured the Cross Challenge U20 win ahead of fellow Scot Finlay Todd, placing fourth and fifth respectively in the event. Northern Irish athlete Craig McMeechan (Francis Marsh, North Down) was next back in the series results.

It was a third win out of four for Macclesfield’s Sian Heslop (Alison Hartopp) in the U15 girl’s contest which she dominated. Like she has done previously during the series, Heslop created a lead which could not be reined in by her rivals as she won by over 30 seconds. Fife’s Anna Hedley and Garscube’s Anya MacLean completed the podium places.

In the boy’s equivalent, Chiltern’s Angus Williams (Steve Perkin) sealed his first ever Challenge victory ahead of Mike Spill (Stephen Livett, Menai) who has already had two top three placings in the series so far.

Valencia Wright, the Victoria Park City of Glasgow athlete, earned a fine first victory of the series in the U13 girls race after podium places in the previous three fixtures – winning by over 24 seconds in Northern Ireland. Maximum points went to Carmarthen’s Frank Morgan (Carol Jones) in the boy’s equivalent.

Full Results can be found here.