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UK Athletics

cardiff marks cross challenge half way point

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The second stage of the British Athletics Cross Challenge took place last weekend in Cardiff at Blackweir Fields. After a frantic start to the series at Sefton Park in November, a race which incorporated the European Cross Country Championship trials, the event in south Wales was a chance for athletes to earn valuable points and secure an early lead in the overall standings.

Adam Hickey (coach: Eamonn Martin) and Lily Partridge (Mick Woods) made significant moves in the senior standings with convincing race wins over the fast and flat course. Both competed at the Liverpool event so they are currently placed at the top of the senior Cross Challenge standings as Callum Hawkins (Robert Hawkins) and Gemma Steel (john Nuttall), the race winners in Liverpool did not compete.

Hickey defended his Cardiff title in style with a perfectly judged race to earn the win in Cardiff. The Southend athlete continued his fine form to move away from long-time race rival Dewi Griffiths (Kevin Evans), who was competing in his first race since the Commonwealth Games last August. The third lap was the decisive moment in the race when Hickey opened up a convincing lead to take the win ahead of Dean Lacy (Mark Newell) who finished strongly to pip Swansea’s Griffiths on the line for second.

Lily Partridge was the outright winner in the senior women’s race after a dominant display. After a cagey opening lap, all the main protagonists were bunched together. However, it was the Aldershot Farnham & District athlete who made the first move towards the start of the second lap as they came out of the woods alongside the banks of the River Taff. A ten metre gap at halfway soon turned into a convincing lead by the last lap where Partridge celebrated a fine victory.

The chasing group was headed by Sarah Astin (Woods) who finished in an impressive second place ahead of Imogen Ainsworth (Keith Brackstone), with GB & NI mountain running international Emma Clayton (Andrew Henderson) just outside the podium places in fourth.

In the junior men’s race, GB & NI Junior international Jac Hopkins (Kevin Tobin) earned a good win after making a breakthrough early in the race to finish ahead of Jordan Rowe (David Smith)and fellow Welshman Iolo Hughes (Andrew Walling). The Swansea Harrier has been the highest placed British athlete in his races at both the European Cross Country Championships and Great Edinburgh XCountry recently, so it was no surprise that Hopkins performed impressively on home turf. 

It was a Welsh showdown in the U20 women’s event as Olivia Gwynn (Tobin) stole the show ahead of Browen Owen (Henderson). Gwynn said after the race that she was “over the moon” but said the last 250m “lasted forever”, nevertheless she held on to win her first Cross Challenge event

There were wins in the U17 races for young cross country and triathlon starlet Ben Dijkstra and Birtley’s Kate Waugh (Thomas Millmore). Jasmine Cooper and Luke Davies were victorious in the U15 events - the latter embroiled in a thrilling sprint finish which he won after a dive for the line. Eluned King was one of several Welsh winners on the day in the U13 girl’s race, and Hamish Armitt made the long trip from Scotland worthwhile with the victory in the U13 boy’s race.

The next stop in the Cross Challenge series will be at Teardrop Lakes in Milton Keynes, where the event will be held for the first time. There will be precious points up for grabs as we get closer to crowning our 2014/15 Cross Challenge victors with the final event held at Cofton Park in Birmingham on 7 March.