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liverpool cross challenge

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Liverpool Cross

22 November 2013

The second leg of the British Athletics Cross Challenge comes to Liverpool’s Sefton Park on Saturday with places on the GB & NI team for next month’s European Cross Country Championships in Belgrade up for grabs.

Following his excellent recent form, 2010 and 2011 champion Andy Vernon (coach: Nic Bideau) will start as favourite in the senior men’s race. Vernon ran the fastest leg at the National Cross Country Relays in Mansfield earlier this month and ran a time of 17:37 to finish fourth in a top class four mile race in the Netherlands in October.

Nick Goolab (Steve Sharp) was impressive in winning first leg in Mansfield and after winning silver in the junior race at the European Cross Country Championships in 2008 will be hoping to secure his first senior GB & NI appearance with a good run in Liverpool.

Jonathan Taylor (Gordon Surtees), last year’s senior men’s champion, will be a threat if he can rediscover his form of 12 months ago while Ryan McLeod (John Nuttall) has returned to his best after a long spell out through injury and has won high quality 10k races in Sheffield and Newcastle in recent months.

Former National and Inter-counties cross country champion Frank Tickner (Clive Thomas) will look to improve on his fifth place finish at the last Cross Challenge event in Bristol last month. Meanwhile Dewi Griffiths (Kevin Evans), who won the senior race in Bristol, is eligible for the under 23 team for Belgrade will compete in the under 23 category combined into the senior race.

Other under 23s likely to be in contention are Jonny Hay (Mick Woods), who was tenth in this race last year and finished third in Bristol, Great Scottish 10k winner Callum Hawkins (Robert Hawkins) and European under 23 1500m silver medallist Charlie Grice (Jonathan Bigg).

In the senior women’s race, Gemma Steel (John Nuttall) will be hoping to transfer her excellent form from the roads on to the mud of Sefton Park. Steel was a runaway winner of the Great Birmingham Half Marathon in a personal best of 70:19 and was second on her last appearance in Liverpool two years ago.

Steel’s cross country pedigree is illustrated by her 31st place at the World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz earlier this year but she is likely to be tested by cross country specialist Katie Brough (Andrew Carter), who was victorious at the first Cross Challenge fixture in Bristol, former world junior champion Stephanie Twell (Mick Woods) and multiple GB & NI international Lauren Howarth (self-coached).

The under 23 women’s race, which will run as part of the senior race, is likely to be highly competitive with the likes of Laura Weightman (Steve Cram), who reached the final of the 1500m at London 2012, one of several athletes likely to be in contention.

Weightman will be joined by Laura Muir (Andy Young), who competed in the 800m at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow, last year’s seventh place finisher Lily Partridge (Woods) and Charlotte Purdue (Woods), a silver medallist over 5,000m at the European Junior Championships and also at the European Cross Country Championships as a junior in 2008 making her first cross country appearance for 18 months.

The under 20 races are likely to be more clear cut with Emelia Gorecka (Woods) gunning for her third consecutive victory in Liverpool. Gorecka is unbeaten as a junior at Liverpool and in the past three years has gone on to finish third, first and second at the European Cross Country Championships.

Lydia Turner (Thomas Millmore) was the surprise package with victory over a strong field in Bristol and will hope to replicate that this time round. Five of GB & NI’s junior World Cross Country Championships representative will line up in Liverpool with sisters Bobby and Alex Clay, Rebecca Weston (all Peter Mullervy) and Georgia Taylor-Brown joining Gorecka.

Jonathan Davies (Rob McKim) has been totally dominant in recent weeks, winning by a margin of over a minute in Bristol and taking victory at the prestigious Soria international event in Spain. Davies was GB & NI’s first finisher at the World Cross this year and two of his teammates from Poland, Gordon Benson (Phil Townsend) and Michael Callegari (Sheik), will go up against him again in Liverpool.

Other possible threats to Davies will be in the form of local athlete Matt Shirling (Adrian Webb), who holds the British under 17 1500m record, and European Junior 1500m champion Jake Wightman (Geoff Wightman).

For the European Cross Country Championships selection policy click here.

For more information on the British Athletics Cross Challenge, including timetable, directions and entry lists for Liverpool, click here.