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Great Britain and NI Targetting Medal Rush

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Hayley Yelling Liverpool XC 2008
Yelling - Looking to feature strongly in Brussels later this month

 

 

12 December 2008

 

 

 

The final major athletics championships of 2008 takes place this weekend and the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland Team is optimistic of finishing the year on a high. The SPAR European Cross Country Championships is on Sunday 14 December in Brussels and GB & NI has several strong medal chances in both individual and team competitions.


Last year in Toro, Spain, the team enjoyed its finest ever medal haul at the event, bringing home eight medals, including four gold. UK Athletics Senior Performance Co-ordinator and Team Leader Spencer Barden is confident of another successful championship this year.

He said :”We have brought a strong team with opportunities of medals in every one of the six races. We will be aiming to top the medal table again to maintain our position as the foremost cross country running nation in Europe and to sustain our push towards greater success on the world stage.”

Leading the senior men’s challenge is 2006 winner Mo Farah (Newham & Essex), who is fresh from a six week training stint at altitude in Ethiopia. The 25 year old, who was 6th in the 5000m at the 2007 IAAF World Championships was disappointed when he was eliminated in the heats at the Olympic Games and will be determined to round the year off with a flourish.

 

In the senior women’s race, 2004 champion Hayley Yelling (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow) is a reliable and redoubtable performer at these championships and will be looking to spearhead another medal assault.

GB & NI senior women’s team have won a team medal at the last eight European Cross Country Championships and will be looking to maintain that impressive streak with a team packed with experience and ability.


GB & NI are the defending team champions in both the men’s and women’s U23 races and have every reason to believe they can be at the forefront of affairs again this weekend. Last year’s men’s bronze medallist Andy Vernon (Aldershot, Farnham & District) won the senior men’s trial in Liverpool and will be a strong individual contender.

Former European Junior 1500m champion Morag MacLarty (Central AC) was the leading U23 in the recent UK Trials and is expected to play a prominent role in a bid for another team medal. 

World junior 1500m champion Stephanie Twell (Aldershot, Farnham & District) heads up a strong junior women’s team. Last year, the 19 year old made history by becoming the first athlete ever to defend the junior women’s title at this event. This year, she will be looking to extend the sequence further still, as she targets her third successive victory in her last ever championship race as a junior athlete.

Thus far, she is one of the form athletes of this winter’s cross country season, stepping up to win the senior women’s races at both the opening rounds of the McCain UK Cross Challenge Series in Gateshead and Liverpool. Club-mate Charlotte Purdue who won bronze behind Twell in 2007 joins her in a powerful looking junior women’s team.

In the junior men’s race, trials winner David Forrester (St Helens Sutton) leads the challenge. The 19 year old was 4th at this event last year and will be looking to progress onto the podium this time round.

 

NORWICH UNION GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND TEAM

 

MEN

Mo Farah (Newham & Essex); Lee Merrien (Guernsey Island); Scott Overall (Blackheath & Bromley); Michael Skinner (Blackheath & Bromley); Frank Tickner (Wells City); Phil Wicks (Belgrave Harriers)

 

WOMEN

Helen Clitheroe (Preston Harriers); Louise Damen (Winchester & District AC); Hatti Dean (Hallamshire Harriers); Laura Kenney (Royal Sutton); Gemma Miles (Kendal); Hayley Yelling (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow)

 

U23 MEN

John Beattie (Winchester & District); Alex Derricott (Staffordshire Moorlands); Keith Gerrard (Newham & Essex); Ben Lindsay (Aldershot, Farnham & District); Tom Russell (Bristol & West); Andy Vernon (Aldershot, Farnham & District)

 

U23 WOMEN

Hannah England (Oxford City); Susannah Hignett (Bournemouth AC); Stacey Johnson (Cannock & Stafford); Morag MacLarty (Central AC); Katherine Sparke (Woodford Green & Essex Ladies); Sarah Tunstall (Kendal)

 

U20 MEN

Phillip Berntsen (Winchester AC); David Forrester (Sutton St Helens); Nick Goolab (Belgrave Harriers); Mitch Goose (City of Norwich); Ross Murray (Gateshead Harriers); Chris O'Hare (Edinburgh AC)

 

U20 WOMEN

Lauren Howarth (Leigh Harriers); Emma Pallant (Aldershot, Farnham & District); Laura Park (Ellenborough AC); Emily Pidgeon (Stroud & District); Charlotte Purdue (Aldershot, Farnham & District);

Stephanie Twell (Aldershot, Farnham & District)