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24th SPAR European Cross Country Championships preview

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7 December 2007

 

 

The Norwich Union Great Britain & Northern Ireland team flew out to Toro, Spain, today determined to top the medals table at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships for the fifth successive year.

 

They are without the reigning European men’s champion Mo Farah, two-times women’s champion Paula Radcliffe and the 2004 bronze medallist Jo Pavey. And they are aware that hosts Spain will field a strong team, as do Portugal, Italy and Russia habitually.

 

But the GB&NI team includes the 2004 women’s champion Hayley Yelling (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow AC); the reigning junior women’s champion Steph Twell (Aldershot, Farnham and District AC) – aiming to become the first to retain this title in the 24-year history of these championships – and several more athletes whose primary short-term target is the Olympic Games to be staged in Beijing next summer.

 

Among them are World Championships 1500m finalist Andy Baddeley (Harrow AC), inspired to race through the mud by his coach Andy Hobday frequently reminding him that Steve Ovett won the English National junior cross country title only five years before he became the Olympic 800m champion in 1980; marathon hopes Pete Riley (Leigh Harriers) and Liz Yelling (Bedford and County AC), the 2006 Commonwealth marathon bronze medallist; and steeplechasers Hatti Dean (Hallamshire Harriers Sheffield) and Helen Clitheroe (Preston Harriers).

 

The Yelling sisters-in-law are both contesting their tenth Euro Cross. Hayley has been in seven medal-winning teams and Liz six. Indeed, the GB&NI senior women’s team has finished on the podium every year since 2000 – and the junior women, boosted by the presence of 2005 European Junior 5000m champion Emily Pidgeon (Gloucester AC), are bidding for their third successive team victory.

 

There was one late problem. Kevin Deighton (Bridlington RR) has withdrawn from the Under 23 men’s team. First reserve Rob Bugden (Bristol and West AC) was unable to fly with the team because his passport had disappeared. His parents posted it by recorded delivery from their Cornish base on Wednesday but it did not arrive at his Cardiff digs – he is a student at UWIC – in time for him to join the team flight on Friday afternoon. The passport search continued on Saturday in the hope that Bugden could take a later flight. But hope finally had to be abandoned when the passport did not drop through his letterbox on Saturday morning. GB Team Leader Alan Storey said: "We are very disappointed that Bugden is not able to get here. The second reserve, Tom Russell, was contacted but was unable to travel at late notice. It's an unfortunate sequence because there are many men back home who would have loved to have been here." The team is:

 

Senior Men: Andy Baddeley (Harrow), Billy Farquharson (Notts), Tom Humphries (Cannock & Stafford), Peter Riley (Leigh Harriers), Michael Skinner (Blackheath & Bromley), Frank Tickner (Wells City).

 

Senior Women: Helen Clitheroe (Preston), Louise Damen (Winchester & District), Hatti Dean (Hallamshire), Kate Reed (Bristol & West), Hayley Yelling (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow), Liz Yelling (Bedford & County).

 

Under 23 Men: Andrew Baker (Yeovil), Keith Gerrard (Newham & Essex Beagles), Tom Lancashire (Bolton United), Ryan McLeod (Elswick), Andy Vernon (Aldershot Farnham & District).

 

Under 23 Women: Susie Hignett (Bath University), Felicity Milton (Durham City), Jessica Sparke (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies), Katherine Sparke (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies), Sarah Tunstall (Kendal), Katrina Wootton (Bedford & County).

 

Junior Men: David Forrester (St Helens Sutton), Mitch Goose (City of Norwich), Lee Carey (Nuneaton), Ben Lindsay (Aldershot Farnham & District), Ross Murray (Gateshead), Craig Ruddy (Inverclyde).

 

Junior Women: Jo Harvey (Exeter), Laura Park (Ellenborough AC), Emily Pidgeon (Gloucester), Charlotte Purdue (Aldershot Farnham & District), Charlotte Roach (Vale Royal), Stephanie Twell (Aldershot Farnham & District).