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Gemma Steel
6 November 2015

The British Athletics Cross Challenge returns this Saturday with the first leg in the five-part series taking place at Teardrop Lakes in Milton Keynes. 2014 European cross country gold medallist Gemma Steel (coach: John Nuttall, club: Charnwood) and last year’s senior men’s champion Adam Hickey (Eamonn Martin, Southend AC) are among those competing on 7 November.

Steel enjoyed one of the finest moments of her career in December last year when she claimed the European title in Bulgaria which came a few weeks after winning at the Cross Challenge in Liverpool. She marks a return to the competition in Milton Keynes where she will face a tough line-up.

Among the opponents who will challenge Steel for the opening win of the series are Jenny Nesbitt (David Walker, Worcester) who won on this course during the 2014/15 edition of the Cross Challenge. Others to watch out for include Elle Vernon (Steve Vernon, Stockport) and world mountain running bronze medallist Emma Clayton (Andrew Henderson, Leeds City).

Hickey won at Teardrop Lakes in February earlier this year to strengthen his grip on the overall Cross Challenge trophy.  After competing in the Challenge since an under 13, the Southend athlete has been an ever-present competitor in the series and has ambitions of regaining his senior title over the winter months.

Hickey added: “Racing in the Milton Keynes and Liverpool Cross Challenge fixtures last year helped set me up for my best performance in the European Cross Country Championships, where I finished in ninth position.” 

“The Cross Challenge helped me maintain focus throughout the winter and I'm looking forward to defending my title this season.”

The senior men’s race will be an enticing affair with Jonathan Davies (Rob McKim, Reading/RunFast), fresh from posting the fastest senior-men’s leg at the English Cross Country Relays in Mansfield last week, going into the race as one of the favourites. Dewi Griffiths (Kevin Evans, Swansea), third overall in the Cross Challenge last year, will also be in the mix.

The U20 women’s race will be highly competitive with European Junior 1500m champion Bobby Clay (Rob Denmark, Invicta East Kent) returning to the cross country scene after injury cut short her campaign last winter. Harriet Knowles-Jones (Paul Roden, Warrington), who was fourth in the 1500m at the IAAF World Youth Championships this summer, will be looking to translate her track form into a successful cross country season.

Ben Djikstra (Leicester) and Jack Rowe (woods, Aldershot Farnham & District) will be among those looking for success in the U20 men’s race.

There will be a full programme of age-group races from U11 girls and boys which start at 11:30am on Saturday.

For more details, please visit the British Athletics Cross Challenge pages via this link: http://www.britishathletics.org.uk/competitions/the-british-athletics-cross-challenge/