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UK Athletics

cross challenge set for classic in liverpool  

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Andy Butchart
25 November 2016 

The 2016/17 British Athletics Cross Challenge continues at Sefton Park in Liverpool on Saturday 26th November, where record entries for the meet will see many of the UK’s best cross country athletes go head-to-head.

Cross Challenge points are up for grabs and there is an added incentive for many athletes who will be vying for a spot on the British Athletics team for December’s European Cross Country Championships in Italy.

The men’s race looks set to be an eye-catcher, with one of the strongest ever line-ups of provisional entries led by 2016 Olympians Callum Hawkins (coach: Robert Hawkins, club: Kilbarchan), Andrew Butchart (Derek Eason, Central AC) and Andy Vernon (Nic Bideau, Aldershot Farnham & District). Vernon has shown strong form of late with victories at Birmingham’s half marathon and Milton Keynes’ series opener at Teardrop Lakes two weeks ago, and will be keen for a second successive victory for maximum series points.

Last year’s victor at Sefton Park, Ross Millington (Steve Vernon, Stockport) looks set to join the trio over 9.8km, with Dewi Griffiths (Kevin Evans, Swansea) and Ben Connor (Derby) adding further stern competition in what will be a fascinating race.

The men’s U23 field, combined in with the senior’s race, includes last year’s U23 European Cross Country champion Jonny Davies (Rob McKim, Reading AC/Run Fast), 2015 World and European Cross Country team member Chris Olley (Mark Hookway, Tonbridge) and Scotland’s short course champion Ben Stevenson (John Pentecost, Liverpool Harriers).

The senior women’s race will see Teardrop Lakes victor Pippa Woolven (Luke Gunn, Wycombe) face stiff competition from a hugely strong field which includes 2014 European Cross Country champion Gemma Steel (Rob Denmark, Charnwood) and 2016 10,000m Olympians Jess Martin (née Andrews) (Josep Carballude, Aldershot Farnham & District) and Beth Potter (Mick Woods, Shaftesbury Barnet).

U23 athletes to keep tabs on within the same race include Jess Judd (Mick Judd, Chelmsford), and Rebecca Murray (Alex Stanton, Bedford AC), with Charlotte Taylor (Helen Lehman-Winters, Nene Valley) another who could feature after finishing 10th at the NCAA’s last weekend.

Of the men’s U20s field, Alex Yee will be one of the favourites for the race win after picking up the SportsAid one-to-watch award earlier this week for his exploits in Triathlon and over the cross country. The top three in Milton Keynes of James Gormley (John Wood, City of Sheffield), Sam Stevens (Leicester Coritanian) and Paulos Surafel (Craig Winrow, Enfield & Haringey) will also feature near the top end of the contest.

Harriet Knowles-Jones (Paul Roden, Warrington) looked in supreme form at the first race in the series, and will look to go one better than her second place finish at this event in 2015. Gemma Holloway (Thurrock) will be another contender alongside the likes of Victoria Weir (Simon Anderson, City of Plymouth) and Amelia Quirk (Beverley Kitching, Bracknell AC) who won the U17 race two weeks ago.

The action gets underway at 11:00 with a full schedule of age-group races taking place. More details, including timetables, travel information and course maps can be found here: http://www.britishathletics.org.uk/competitions/the-british-athletics-cross-challenge/