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TWELL BOOST FOR AVIVA GB & NI EUROPEAN CROSS TEAMS

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Steph Twell

29 November 2011

Stephanie Twell (coach: Mick Woods) will return to international duty for the first time since her horrific injury in February at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Velenje, Slovenia on Sunday 11 December, and with full Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland teams, there is a realistic opportunity for the group to achieve a clean sweep of medals for the third time in four years.

Twell, a three time European junior cross country champion, will compete in the under-23 competition in a very strong team alongside her Aldershot, Farnham and District podium potential team-mate Emma Pallant (Mick Woods), an individual bronze medallist 12 months ago in a gold medal winning squad.

The team will be led by Trials winner Hannah Walker (Bud Baldaro), who finished eighth in the European Under-23 Championships 5000m final in the Czech Republic in July.

AFD’s Emelia Gorecka (Mick Woods), the 2010 European junior cross country bronze medallist and runner-up over 5000m at the European Junior Championships this summer, is also targeting an individual medal position. She heads a junior women’s team that also won gold in 2010, which also includes Annabel Gummow (Chris Wooldridge), bronze medallist behind Gorecka on the track this summer.

The Aviva GB & NI junior men also have an individual medal prospect in Jonny Hay (Mick Woods), the European Junior Championships 5000m bronze medallist. Hay raced to a six-second victory in the Trials and will take confidence from finishing as the best placed European junior in the 2011 IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

In one of the strongest men’s under-23 teams in recent years, Mitch Goose (Tim/Pauline Ash) will be looking to re-create the form which saw him finish fifth European under-23 in 2009. The US-based athlete finished 40th in the NCAA Championships a week ago but returned to the UK for the Trial race and finished 12th overall in the combined senior/under-23 event to deservedly earn his place on the team. He will be backed up by James Wilkinson (Phil Townsend), an individual bronze medallist as a junior in 2009, and Derek Hawkins (Lawrie Spence) who has gained valuable cross country experience in the European and World Cross Country in the past 12 months.

Trials winners Andy Vernon (Nic Bideau) and Hatti Dean (Bud Baldaro) - who had mixed experiences in the 2010 European Cross - head the senior teams.

Vernon, an individual medallist for two successive years as an under-23, was disappointed to drop out in Portugal after expectations of a top ten finish. Dean, in contrast, was an impressive seventh place and built on that when finishing 21st in the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in March - second Aviva GB & NI scoring athlete.

The Aviva GB & NI senior men’s team, which includes track specialist Andy Baddeley (Andy Hobdell), is arguably the strongest it’s been in a decade and could be back in medal contention after missing out in 2010, while the women will be targeting a team medal to match or better last year’s silver.

McCain Bristol Cross Challenge winner Gemma Steel (John Nuttall), after an excellent summer on the roads, is also included after finishing second in the Trial, while Emily Wicks (Keith Donkin) - wife of international cross country representative Phil - makes her senior Aviva GB & NI cross country debut.

Aviva GB & NI Team Leader Ian Stewart said: “As we have done in recent years, we’re really pleased to be naming full teams and our strongest available teams. We believe that gives us a great chance of winning a clean sweep of medals in this event as we did in 2008 and 2009.

“We’re also delighted to have Stephanie Twell back in action after a really tough year. She’s got great cross country pedigree and her experience will be hugely valuable to the girls.”

Jessica Judd (Jeremy Freeman), second overall in the combined under-17/20 race and eligible for selection, has turned down the opportunity to compete at the European Cross while Charlotte Purdue (Mick Woods) has not yet returned to training following UKA medical advice and asked not to be considered.

AVIVA GB & NI TEAM

SENIOR MEN

Andy Baddeley (Andy Hobdell) - Harrow; Mark Draper (Andy Hobdell) - Bedford & County; Ryan McLeod (John Nuttall) - Tipton Harriers; Frank Tickner (Self) - Wells AC; Andy Vernon (Nic Bideau) - Aldershot, Farnham and District; James Walsh (Mike Baxter) - Leeds City

SENIOR WOMEN

Elle Baker (Dave Turnbull) - Stockport; Julia Bleasdale (Nic Bideau) - Hillingdon; Hatti Dean (Bud Baldaro) - Hallamshire Harriers; Freya Murray (Steve Jones) - Edinburgh AC; Gemma Steel (John Nuttall) - Charnwood AC; Emily Wicks (Keith Donkin) - AFD

UNDER-23 MEN

Philip Berntsen (Keith Anderson) - Winchester; Matthew Gillespie (Amanda Gillespie) - Shettleston; Mitch Goose (Tim/Pauline Ash) - City of Norwich; Matthew Graham (Andrew Craycraft) - Kirkintilloch; Derek Hawkins (Lawrie Spence) - Kilbarchan AC; James Wilkinson (Phil Townsend) - Leeds City AC

UNDER-23 WOMEN

Lauren Howarth (Bud Baldaro) - Leigh; Emma Pallant (Mick Woods) - AFD; Lily Partridge (Self) - AFD; Naomi Taschimowitz (Charlotte Fisher) - Taunton; Stephanie Twell (Mick Woods) - AFD; Hannah Walker (Bud Baldaro) - Birchfield

JUNIOR MEN

Kieran Clements (Steve Benson) - Ipswich; Niall Fleming (Mick Woods) - Shaftesbury Barnet; Richard Goodman (Geoff Williams) - Shaftesbury Barnet; Jack Goodwin (Simon Goodwin) - Bedford & County; Jonny Hay (Mick Woods) - AFD; Mark Shaw (Steve Shaw) - New Marske

JUNIOR WOMEN

Beth Carter (Mick Woods) - AFD; Emelia Gorecka (Mick Woods) - AFD; Annabel Gummow (Chris Wooldridge) - Bristol & West; Katie Holt (Alan Morris) - City of Stoke; Gemma Kersey (Eamonn Martin) - Basildon; Laura Muir (Alan Mackintosh) - Dundee Hawkhill