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Ricky Stevenson
Stevenson shows great form at the McCain UK Challenge season opener in Gateshead

9 December 2009

Six strong teams will defend Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s status as the most successful European nation in recent times at the European Cross Country in Dublin on Sunday 13 December.

The Aviva GB&NI squad, which comprises men’s and women’s junior, under 23 and senior teams, follow an impressive 2008 tally of six team medals and six individual honours. 

Hoping to leading his teammates towards the podium will be Mo Farah (Newham & Essex Beagles), who is entering  the men’s senior race as a medal contender, aided by a recent altitude training trip to Kenya. 

He said:  “Training went really well, five weeks solid training and hard work. There are lots of groups training out there. I know why they’re so good, because they eat, sleep, train and run! I would turn up to the track at any point and there would be fifty people there training in groups.

“Personally I prefer a smooth course, not muddy but every athlete has to deal with it no matter what the conditions are. The European Cross is a big thing, it’s not going to be easy but to win would be nice.”

Comeback athlete Hayley Yelling (Windsor Slough, Eton & Hounslow) impressed at the McCain Cross Challenge in Liverpool following her apparent retirement in 2008. With her ‘no pressure’ attitude the high quality athlete returns to the cross country course with a new lease of life to represent the senior women’s team and will be aiming to come close to the form that saw her claim the senior women’s gold in Heringsdorf, Germany five years ago.

An intriguing name in the Men’s U23 line-up is former Fell Runner Alistair Brownlee (Bingley Harriers), who will be making his first international appearance as an athlete rather than a tri athlete on Sunday. The 21-year-old from Yorkshire, who was crowned world champion for his first sport in 2009, was recently named as the Olympic athlete of the year by the British Olympic Association.

With Brownlee providing the intrigue, team mate Ricky Stevenson, who finished first for U23 in the trials and third of the men’s field will look to power his way through to a podium position.

Three times junior champion Stephanie Twell (AFD) is the main contender for the Under 23 women’s team, however Stevie Stockton (Vale Royal AC) and Jessica Sparke (Woodford Green & Essex Ladies) should not be overlooked as their consistent performances should help direct the  six towards the team medals.

The junior GB&NI men’s team finished third last year but was the only team to get all four team counters into the top 20. Jonathan Hay (AFD), Nick Goolab (Belgrave Harriers) and Richard Goodman (Shaftesbury Barnet) could well put them into a front running position again.

Kate Avery (Shildon), who won the European Athletics Junior Championships 3000m silver medal this summer, and Lauren Howarth (Leigh Harriers), who finished third at the event last year in Brussels, head up the women’s junior team,  who made a clean sweep of the  top six places last year.

Full reports will be available this weekend on www.uka.org.uk

For further information please visit: http://www.dublin2009.ie/opencontent/?itemid=1