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mccain cardiff cross challenge

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Andy Vernon Cardiff

20 January 2013

Louise Damen (self-coached) and Andy Vernon (Nic Bideau) took victories in the senior races at the McCain Cardiff Cross Challenge today (Sunday 20 January), while Jonathan Davies (Rob McKim) and Bobby Clay (Peter Mullervy) took the under-20 titles in challenging conditions at snow-covered Blackweir Fields.

With heavy snow having fallen in the days preceding the event there was a thick layer of snow which melted as the day wore on and resulted in boggy conditions for large sections of the later races.

Senior Women: 6.99km

Louise Damen, who finished 11th in the European Cross Country Championships in December, led from gun to tape to record a dominant victory in the senior women’s race.

Damen made an early breakaway and quickly established a 30m lead over the other leading contenders on the first of the three laps. She was chased by Emily Wicks (Keith Donkin), Hatti Archer (Bud Baldaro) and Andrea Whitcombe but continued to extend her advantage and eventually won by over a minute in 25:21 ahead of Wicks in second with a time of 26:27 and Archer third in 26:39.

“The conditions are what they are and it’s part of cross country to be versatile. But I’m happy with that, it’s nice to get a run out in the snow.”

Damen set off at a quick pace and didn’t slow down as she maneuvered the tricky 6.99km course.

“It was the plan to run hard from the start and test myself, I thought I would just go hard and see how I feel. I had a good run last weekend which has given be a bit of confidence so I’m looking forward to the next one now.”

Senior Men: 10.37km

There was a large group for the opening stages of the senior men’s race but Andy Vernon, who finished third at both the McCain Antrim Cross Challenge and Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country, soon began to push the pace and open up a small gap a few strides ahead of John Gilbert and Shaun Dixon (Ben Noad).

Shortly after the half way stage Vernon had pulled further ahead and Frank Tickner (Clive Thomas), who had lost a spike early on in the race, began to make up the ground he had lost and moved into second place. Vernon held off Tickner’s challenge though and won by seven seconds in 34:02.

“Coming down the hard section I decided to go to the front so I wasn’t going through the windy bits behind people and then I thought I should carry on going. My performances have been quite solid recently so I just need to keep on working.”

Conditions had deteriorated to make the going very tough by the time of the senior men’s race and Vernon admits that the melting snow made running more difficult.

“It was very tough. On every lap the back section got boggier and boggier and it was hard to run through it. At times I didn’t even feel like I was wearing spikes because there were some sharp corners and it was hard to get round without falling over.”

This may have been Vernon’s last cross country race of the season as he now focuses his attention on trying to qualify for the European Indoor Championships.

“I’m going indoors now and doing a couple of indoor races in the next few weeks, hopefully I can get selected for the European Indoor Championships. I might also do the Inter-Counties in Birmingham but I’ve got a lot of races coming up so will have to see.”

Under-20 Women: 4.97km

Annabel Mason (John Mason) made an early break on the first lap of the under-20 women’s race and quickly broke up the field behind her. However, Bobby Clay gradually closed the gap on the second lap and then raced clear in the closing stages to win in 18:31, seven seconds clear of Mason (18:38) and Becky Straw (Bud Baldaro), who won the Antrim leg of the McCain Cross Challenge Series, third in 18:46.

Clay, who was fifth at the Bupa Great Edinburgh International earlier in the month, was satisfied with her performance ahead of upcoming races such as the McCain Cross Challenge Final in Birmingham.

“It was really tough. I thought I was going to hate the conditions but once I got started it was fine.

“Now I’m really looking forward to competing in Birmingham (at the McCain Cross Challenge Final and World Cross Country Trials). I really enjoyed it today and it was nice because I didn’t run as well as I wanted to in Edinburgh so I feel like I pulled it back today.”

Under-20 Men: 6.99km

There was a big leading pack for the opening lap of the under-20 men’s race before six athletes broke away on the second lap. An injection of pace from eventual winner Jonathan Davies meant that the group was then reduced to three, with Michael Callegari (Nadeem Shaikh) and Liam Lloyd joining Davies at the front of the field.

On the third and final lap it remained a closely run race but Davies ultimately edged 10m clear and then opened a winning lead as he approached the finish and crossed the line in 24:03. Callegari was second in 24:11 and Lloyd was a further 21 seconds back finishing third in 24:32, just ahead of the fast-finishing Ben Alcock.

“It was a good run. I just sat in near the front to start with and then pushed it on in the second and third laps. I was playing it by ear but the plan was to take it on at some point and that felt like the right time.

“The conditions were different, but it was good experience running when it’s like this because obviously you don’t do it that often. At times it was quite uneven and other times it was quite hard so you had to adjust your stride at different times.”


The age group races were won by Ireland’s Siofra O’Flaherty and Jac Hopkins (Swansea Harriers) in the under-17 category, Harriett Knowles-Jones (Warrington AC) and Josh Kerr (Edinburgh AC) in the under-15 category, Amelia Lancaster (City of Sheffield AC) and Matthew Rawlings (Reading AC) in the under-13 category and Sofia Vella (St Peter’s Primary) and Sam Evans in the primary school races.

Full results can be found here.

The Series concludes with the McCain UK Cross Challenge Final and UK Inter Counties, incorporating the IAAF World Cross Country Trials, on Saturday 9 March 2013.

For full details, including the breakdown of prize money which exceeds £30,000 in total, check out the McCain Cross Challenge section on the UKA website and select ‘prize fund’.

To view the UKA selection policies for the 2012/13 cross country season, follow this link.