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McCain XC Final Preview

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Frank Tickner
National winner Tickner is favourite amongst senior men


05 March 2009

The rewards are great this weekend as the final round of the McCain UK Cross Challenge Series takes place at the Inter Counties and World Trials event in Wollaton Park, Nottingham.

As well as being the final round of the UK’s premier domestic four-race cross country series and the prestige of Inter-Counties team and individual success, Saturday’s races offer up places in the Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland Team for the World Cross Country Championships in Jordan on 28 March for senior and under 20 age group athletes.

In the senior men’s race, the form athlete is Frank Tickner (Wells City Harriers), winner at the recent English National at London’s Parliament Fields and 10th in December’s European Cross Country Championships.

He will be joined by English National bronze medallist Andy Vernon (Aldershot, Farnham & District) who is the series leader in the McCain UK Cross Challenge Series and with double points available in Nottingham will be hoping to protect his lead and take the overall title. National silver medallist Steve Vernon (Stockport Harriers) has ruled himself out of this weekend and selection consideration because of an ongoing injury issue.

In the senior women’s race, Stephanie Twell (Aldershot, Farnham & District), Freya Murray (Chester le Street) and Sarah Tunstall (Kendal AC) are amongst the leading contenders.

However English National Cross Country champion, the in-form Hatti Dean (Hallamshire Harriers) will miss the trials with illness. Dean has indicated to selectors that she wishes to be considered for selection to the Aviva GB and NI team.
It means that the favourite for the title will clearly be 19 year old triple European Junior champion Twell, who has won every race in the McCain series thus far and will be going for a clean sweep on Saturday.

Improving Scottish champion Murray and European U23 silver medallist Tunstall should also be in the mix.

In the junior men’s race, Nick Goolab (Belgrave Harriers) – another winner at the recent English National – is among the entries.

Goolab also enjoyed a confidence-boosting victory on the international circuit at the Lisbon Junior International in February and will be optimistic ahead of this weekend’s race. Series leader Philip Berntsen (Winchester AC) will also feature at the front end of the race.

In the junior women’s race, McCain series leader Louise Small (Aldershot, Farnham & District) and European junior silver and bronze medallists Charlotte Purdue (Aldershot, Farnham & District) and Lauren Howarth (Leigh Harriers) are some of the leading lights of a high-quality entry.

Lower down the age-groups, there is still plenty to be decided with under 17, under 15 and under 13 athletes vying for the prizes as the series arrives at the business end.

In the under 17s races, series leaders Danny Mills (Nuneaton Harriers) and Caira Magean (City of Lisburn) will be looking to end with a flourish.

In the U15s, the boys race could see a close tussle between series leader Kamvir Hayer (Ealing, Southall & Middlesex) and English champion Harvey Nixon (Aldershot, Farnham & District). In the girls U15 race, English national bronze medallist Jessica Judd (Thurrock Harriers) is a likely contender.

In the U13s, series leader Matthew Arnold (Aldershot, Farnham & District) and English champion James Knox (Helm Hill) are ones to watch in the boys race, whilst in the girls race, series leader Hannah Bethwaite (Ellenborough AC) and English champion Abbie Hetherington (Carlisle & Aspatria) give the Cumbria team a strong top end.

Nick Vermont, Regional CEO at McCain Foods said: "McCain are delighted to support the McCain UK Cross Challenge which develops and nurtures UK athletics talent.

“Our consumers understand that we make good, simple food. We feel we have a role to play in promoting a healthy balanced lifestyle. Our partnership with UKA will help develop talent at grassroots level and help to find the champions of tomorrow."

All the action gets underway at 11:05am. For further info visit the McCain Cross Challenge Section