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Chase is on For European Places

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David Forrester
Aiming for Brussels - last year's Junior winner Forrester will be aiming for selection in Liverpool this weekend

 

 

28 November 2008

 

 

 

The chase is on for places at the final major athletics championship of the year this weekend as the UK Trials for the European Cross Country Championships take place at Sefton Park, Liverpool.  Saturday’s event also doubles as the second event of this winter’s McCain UK Cross Challenge.

The event traditionally throws up some cut-throat racing; the Norwich Union GB & NI team has been the most successful nation at the Europeans in recent years and team places are hard to come by. This year’s trials are expected to be no different to recent years, where an all-important top three finish will guarantee selection for the Brussels-hosted championships.

 

In the senior men’s race, Andy Vernon (Aldershot, Farnham & District), Steve Vernon (Stockport Harriers), Frank Tickner (Wells City), Keith Gerrard (Newham & Essex) and Michael Skinner (Blackheath & Bromley) have all started the season solidly and should all be prominent contenders.

2006 European Cross Country Champion Mo Farah (Newham & Essex) has recently returned from a two month training trip to Ethiopia and will not race in the trials, but has declared his interest in competing in Brussels to the selection panel.   Meanwhile, Olympic 1500m finalist Andy Baddeley (Harrow AC) has now decided not to declare his availability for Brussels.

The event was originally in his plans and although training has been progressing well after spending time out getting married and recovering from an Achilles injury post-Beijing, he has not had sufficient time to train on grass or in spikes, so will delay his first winter foray into competition until the New Year.

In the senior women’s race, 2006 and 2007 European Junior Champion Stephanie Twell (Aldershot, Farnham & District) will continue her build-up to her title defence by taking on a strong domestic field of senior athletes.

The 19 year old, who is already pre-selected for Brussels, proved she is more than capable of making the jump by winning the senior women’s race at the first McCain UK Cross Challenge in Gateshead earlier this month.  In Liverpool, she will face seasoned GB internationals including Helen Clitheroe (Preston Harriers), Hayley Yelling (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow) and Louise Damen (Winchester & District).

Other contenders for GB vests are 2008 Inter-Counties winner Laura Kenney (Royal Sutton), Freya Murray (Chester le Street) and Hannah England (Oxford City).  In both senior races, the first three finishers will be automatically selected for the Europeans, as will the first three eligible U23 athletes for the U23 races in Brussels.

In the junior men’s race, David Forrester (St Helens Sutton), Mitch Goose (City of Norwich) and Ross Murray (Gateshead Harriers) are likely contenders, whilst in the junior women’s race, Emma Pallant (Aldershot, Farnham & District), Jo Harvey (Exeter Harriers) and Emily Pidgeon (Stroud AC) should be to the fore.

 

In total, ten races will take place throughout the day including U11 primary schools races to, U13s, U15s, U17s, juniors (U20s) and seniors. The programme gets underway at 11:00am, the senior women’s race begins at 13:20, followed by the senior men’s race at 14:00.