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antrim cross challenge

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Andy Vernon Antrim 2013

3 January 2014

The British Athletics Cross Challenge rolls on to Antrim, Northern Ireland, on Saturday (4 January) as world class fields line up at the IAAF International event.

Andy Vernon (Coach: Nic Bideau) is the leading British entry in a senior men’s field that includes a host of top Africans. The 27 year old was third in Antrim last year and will be hoping to build on impressive 2013 form that saw him win individual and team bronze at the European Cross Country Championships in Belgrade last month.

2013 World Cross Country champion Japhet Korir of Kenya will start as favourite in a highly competitive men’s race though. Korir became the youngest ever winner of the World Cross as he clinched gold aged just 19 in Poland last year and will become the first reigning world champion to compete in Antrim in the event’s 36 year history.

However, last year’s winner Thomas Akeyo of Uganda will be looking to defend his title and Emmanuel Bett, who won over 10 miles at the Bupa Great South Run in November, will also pose a threat.

Other British names to look out for will be Dewi Griffiths (Kevin Evans), who was part of the GB & NI gold medal winning under 23 team at last month’s European Cross Country Championships last month, Adam Hickey (Eamonn Martin), who finished 25th in his senior GB & NI debut at the Europeans, and Jonathan Davies (Rob McKim), who placed fourth in the under 20 race in Belgrade and will run in his first senior cross country race on Saturday.

The senior women’s race will also be fiercely contested with a strong mix of top class domestic and international athletes. GB & NI’s Gemma Steel (John Nuttall) won a superb European silver medal in Belgrade last month and is in excellent form having also won the Bupa Great Birmingham Half Marathon with a personal best of 70:19 in October.

After a long spell out through injury Charlotte Purdue (Mick Woods) has returned to form with a bang in recent months. She was second overall in the senior women’s race at the Liverpool Cross Challenge and went on to win bronze in the under 23 race at the European Cross. She was victorious in her last appearance in Antrim three years ago and will look to rediscover that form tomorrow.

However, Ireland’s two-time European Cross Country champion Fionnuala Britton will hope to bounce back from the disappointment of finishing fourth in Belgrade and create a repeat of her winning run in Antrim last year.

Other leading internationals include Belgium’s 2012 Olympian Almensh Belete, who was sixth at the European Championships last month, and Bahrain’s duo of Maryam Jamal and Mimi Belete.

Full start lists can be seen here. For live updates follow @BritAthletics on twitter and look out for videos on BritishAthleticsTV early next week.