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Twell to captain gb & ni in bulgaria

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Steph Twell

13 December 2014

The 21st edition of the European Cross Country Championships gets under way in Samokov, Bulgaria this weekend. Steph Twell (coach: Mick Woods) will captain the Great Britain & Northern Ireland team, who are aiming to continue their impressive medal winning record at the event.

25 year old Twell (Mick Woods) has been given the honour of captaining her country on her ninth appearance at the European Cross Country Championships and will be targeting a strong display in the senior women’s race after the return to her best form on the road.

The Aldershot Farnham & District athlete said: “It’s special for me because I have been on the team for so many years and it’s been part of my development growing up. I’m really happy to take on the role and share my experiences with the younger athletes on the team who are coming through.

“I have so many fond memories of the European Cross Country Championships. They propelled me to winning my track vests. It gave me that exposure on the European level, and the success as a junior on this stage made me believe in myself over the longer distances on the track.”

A major contender in the senior women’s race includes last year’s silver medallist Gemma Steel (John Nuttall), who is targeting the gold this time around and she will lead a strong senior women’s team in Samokov. She will be joined by NCAA Champion Kate Avery (Tony Simmons), Lily Partridge (Woods), Sonia Samuels and Elle Vernon (Steve Vernon).

The senior men to face the 9978 metre course combine a mixture of experience and those who are making their debuts on the European stage. Andrew Butchart (Derek Easton) was second at the trials in Liverpool two weeks ago and the Central AC athlete will be looking to make a mark on his maiden European Cross appearance. He is joined by Luke Caldwell (Nic Bideau) who finished fifth in the U23 race in Belgrade last year, Adam Hickey (Eamonn Martin), Tom Lancashire (Vernon), Ross Millington (Vernon) and Tom Wade (Geoff Watkin).

The U23 race will see Emelia Gorecka (Woods) making the step up in age groups after a superb second place behind Steel in the trials a fortnight ago. The two-time European Cross Junior champion will be one of the strong contenders for the title this time around. Rhona Auckland (Joyce Hogg) has been in good form after a new personal best of 33.03 at the Leeds Abbey Dash 10k last month and will be joined by Maryse Haynes (Bud Baldaro), Kate Holt (Alan Morris), Rebecca Murray (Alex Stanton) and Alice Wright (David Walker) as they look to match the gold medal winning exploits of the U23 team twelve months ago.

The men’s U23 race will include the British Athletics Liverpool Cross Challenge winner which incorporated the trials for the event last month, Callum Hawkins (Robert Hawkins), who will be looking to put himself in the mix for a medal tomorrow morning.

“It is going to be a challenging course – some parts are muddy, some pretty hard and the ground is pretty torn up, so it should be good,” said the Kilbarchan AC athlete after walking the course this morning.

“Hopefully I’ll put myself up there and get a medal. It’s going to be quite tough; there could be quite a few surprises.  Liverpool was a real confidence booster, I thought I had a slim chance but it was great to win and I’m feeling good ahead of tomorrow.”

The men’s U23 team also includes Jonathan Davies (Rob McKim), William Gray (Baldaro), Jonny Hay (Woods), Charlie Hulson (Paul Roden) and Marc Scott (Steve Gulley) who will all face the undulating  7913 metre course in Samokov.

European and Commonwealth 800m finalist Jessica Judd (George Gandy) will be hoping to build on her dominant display in Merseyside last month when she lines up in the junior women’s team. Three members of the team will be making their European Cross debuts on Sunday including Phoebe Law (Richard Holt), Georgina Outten (Baldaro) and Becky Straw (Baldaro) alongside 18 year old Lydia Turner (Thomas Millmore) and Amy Griffiths (Woods) who competed in Belgrade last year.

The junior men’s team is made up of athletes making their debuts for GB & NI at a European Cross Country Championships. The highest placed eligible athlete at the trials at Sefton Park, Croydon Harriers’ Peter Chambers (Mike Fleet) will lead the team against the best athletes in Europe alongside Elliot Bowker (Andrew Carter), Jonathan Glen (Mark Pollard), Jac Hopkins (Kevin Tobin), Michael Vennard (Carter) and Kieran Wood (Mark Vile).

For full timetables and team lists, click here.  http://www.european-athletics.org/competitions/european-cross-country-championships/

There will be BBC television coverage from 08:10 to 13:25 GMT on the BBC Red Button on Sunday 14 December.