12th October 2018
SEVEN DEFENDING CHAMPIONS TO KICK START NEW CROSS CHALLENGE SEASON IN CARDIFF
The opening Cross Challenge meeting of the series will see seven of last season’s series champions hit the mud once again at Cardiff’s Llandaff Fields on Saturday.
Defending senior men’s champion Mahamed Mahamed (coach: Peter Haynes; club: Southampton AC) is looking to become the first man since 2013 to successfully defend a Cross Challenge title and has the perfect opportunity to kick start his title defence in the Welsh capital, with last season’s Cardiff winner Sam Stabler (Rob Denmark; Wreake & Soar Valley) absent.
Jonny Hay (Mick Woods; Aldershot, Farnham & District) finished once place behind Mahamed in Cardiff last year and will look to get the better of him this season.
European Cross team bronze medallist from 2016 Ellis Cross (Mick Woods; Aldershot, Farnham & District) and U23 European Cross team gold medallist from 2015 Richard Goodman (Mick Woods; Shaftesbury Barnet) are also both in form, while 2014/15 series champion Adam Hickey (Eamonn Martin; Southend), also features.
In the senior women’s race, 2016/17 series champion Jess Judd (Mick Judd; Chelmsford) heads to Cardiff hoping to follow on from her victory in the Welsh capital last season and become the first woman to claim consecutive wins on the course.
The main competition comes in the shape of multiple European Cross Country medallist Kate Avery (Shildon) and last season’s series runner-up Phoebe Law (Mick Woods; Kingston & Poly), who returns after injury.
The field also sees IAAF Word Cross Country Championship runners Emily Hosker-Thornhill (Mick Woods; AFD) and Louise Small (Mick Woods; AFD) back on the grass.
The latter has enjoyed success on the Cardiff circuit in previous seasons, finishing as runner-up to Caryl Jones in 2016, while Hosker-Thornhill, who was the fastest at the National Road Relays last weekend, makes her debut on the Welsh course this weekend.
International competition will be provided in the form of France’s Sophie Duarte, who took individual gold and team silver in Belgrade in 2013. Belgium’s Lotto Cross Cup Brussels winner, Imana Truyer, and Irish Olympic & European 3000m steeplechase finalist Sara Treacy, also feature in the field.
Jake Heyward (James Thie; Cardiff) will race on his home circuit in the U20 race once again having claimed his maiden victory on the course last year, pipping world junior teammate Tom Mortimer (Christopher Brown; Stroud) to the line.
His main competition this year comes in the form of European U18 3000m gold medallist Thomas Keen (Mark Vile; Cambridge & Coleridge) and U17 champion Rory Leonard, both of whom make their first appearances in the U20 race, as does Matt Willis (Wrexham AC), who recently claimed bronze as part of the Great Britain U23 mixed relay team at the Triathlon World Championships in Gold Coast.
The women’s U17/20 promises to be a closely contested affair as 2017 Euro-Cross team gold medallists Cari Hughes (Andrew Walling; Swansea) and Khahisa Mhlanga (Mick Judd; Herts Phoenix) take on U17 series champion Grace Brock (Cornwall AC) and runner-up Grace Copeland (Wimbourne AC).
2017 Inter County Championship winner Anna MacFadyen (Forres) makes the 1100-mile round trip from Northern Scotland to the Welsh capital for the race.
Fellow age-group winners Holly Weedall (Andrew Carter; Vale Royal) and Mohamed Ali (Steve Mann; Ealing Southall & Middx) step up to U15 and U17 level respectively, while William Rabjohns (Mark Pauley; Poole AC), begins his defence of the U13 crown.
Age group races from U11 upwards feature through the day from 11:30am, with the U11 girls.
Cardiff hosts the first of the five-part series, which culminates in Loughborough on Saturday, 9 March.