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UK Athletics

leading names qualify for cross challenge finale

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Senior Women Birmingham 2014

9 February 2015

The qualifiers for the finale of the British Athletics Cross Challenge have been announced today, and after three entertaining stages in the series so far, the Cofton Park event on Saturday 7 March will see the overall champions crowned for 2014/2015.

Adam Hickey (coach: Eamonn Martin), the winner in both Cardiff and Milton Keynes will go into the final race as the favourite to take the senior men’s title. The GB & NI international currently tops the Challenge standings after an impressive series of performances. Competing in all of the races in the series so far, Hickey earns an additional three bonus points which could be crucial as just six points separate the top four in the standings to date.

Each athlete’s best two scores from the first three races including bonuses plus points from the final event will be combined to crown the champion. With double points on offer in the final event, there is an opportunity for several athletes to wrestle the title away from the Southend man Hickey at Cofton Park. Scotland’s Andrew Butchart (Derek Easton) has finished second at both the Liverpool and Milton Keynes events so will be seeking that elusive win in the West Midlands. The Central athlete is on 104 points with Dean Lacy (Mark Newell) and Dewi Griffiths (Kevin Evans) just a couple of points further back, so the positions on the podium are still all to play for.  

The senior women’s competition will go down to the wire with only four points separating the top four. Imogen Ainsworth (Keith Brackstone) currently leads the way after a consistent series which included a third place in Cardiff last month. With the advantage of competing in all three events so far, she receives the additional bonus points which edge her ahead.

However, Ainsworth will face a strong challenge from the likes of Lily Partridge (Mick Woods), the Cardiff winner and European Cross Country team gold medallist. The Aldershot Farnham and District athlete will be a formidable contender and stands just two points behind the Bristol & West athlete. Kendal’s Sarah Tunstall and the returning to form Louise Small (Woods) are third and fourth in the standings at present so will be worth keeping an eye on next month.

The U20 men’s and women’s Cross Challenge leaders Iolo Hughes (Andrew Walling) and Phoebe Law (Richard Holt) will go into the event in Birmingham with a narrow lead as they target the prestigious titles.

Hughes won the U17 Cross Challenge title last year and has made an impressive start in the new age group. The Menai athlete has competed in all three events so far and his second place at the weekend – first in the Cross Challenge – moved him ahead of fellow Welshman Jac Hopkins (Kevin Tobin) in the standings. Law, victorious in Milton Keynes, heads the women’s standings but only two points separates her from Bronwen Owen (Andrew Henderson) and Helena Keenan (Bill Boyd).

Emile Cairess and Heidi Davies are in pole position for the top prizes in the U17 competitions. Bingley’s Cairess missed the last event at Teardrop Lakes but after two second place finishers previously, he will be hoping to maintain his consistency at the final competition. Brecon’s Davies won last weekend in Buckinghamshire after a valiant performance in a race combined with the U20 women. She will go into the final in a confident mood after opening an eight point lead.

There will be thrilling finales to the U15 events with only a handful of points separating the leading contenders. In the girl’s competition, Derby’s Jasmine Cooper leads the way after her victory in Cardiff but she will face a strong opposition from Abi Fisher (Phil Banning) who is only two points further back. In the boy’s event only four points separates the leading trio of Luke Davies, Reece Curtis (Stephen Shaw) and Oliver Barbaresi (Walling).

The Scottish athletes lead the way in the U13 events and another long journey beckons for both Hamish Armitt and Emma Frew. Gifffnock’s Armitt has won the last two stages of the series but with only one point separating him from Leeds City’s Tommy Dawson, he will have to be on top form to take the title. Similarly, Frew is level-pegging with Wreake’s Fern Harrison (John Skevington) so everything will come down to their performances over the 3km course at Cofton Park.

For a full list of qualifiers and further information regarding the Birmingham Cross Challenge, click here.

*Athletes who have been selected to represent their English County, Scottish District or Welsh Region in the UK  Inter Counties Championships in which the Cross Challenge Final is being incorporated, will wear their County, District or Region vest and bib number and are asked to notify Cliff Robinson at ukcrosschallenge@ntlworld.com  in order that their Bib Number can be cross referenced.