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UK Athletics

Gateshead International Cross Country Races

10 November 2007


International cross-country racing returned to Gateshead after an absence of 10 years and with it came the opening fixture of the UK Cross Challenge.

And it was success all the way for Britain's Hayley Yelling (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Harrow) who had thought about pulling out on the eve of the race due to a niggling knee injury but after treatment decided to take her chance against a star-studded field assembled for the 7.3 kilometres over five-circuits of the Riverside Bowl.


The senior men's race was won by in-form Burundi-born Jean Ndayisenga (Birchfield Harriers) two weeks after his runaway victory in Birmingham but on this occasion his victory was much narrower after shadowing Tom Humphries (Cannock & Staffs) throughout the 8.7km clash.


With Steph Twell (Aldershot, Farnham & District) contesting the senior event, where she finished runner-up behind Yelling, victory in the Junior Women's race went to Jessica Coulson (Stockport Harriers) who pulled away from the field before the midway stage of the 4.5km race.

The North East had plenty to cheer about in the Junior Men's Race when Ricky Stevenson (New Marske) eased home to win the 7.3km contest by 15 seconds.


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Victory for Hayley Yelling
Victory for Hayley Yelling
Meanwhile, Hayley Yelling showed why she is one of the country's leading cross-country exponent by stamping her authority on her race as early as the opening lap of five of a continental-type course which included two steep inclines on each circuit.

At the conclusion of lap one Yelling was 15 metres ahead of Hatti Dean (Hallamshire), Helen Clitheroe (Preston Harriers), Louise Damen (Winchester & District), Steph Twell and Susan Partridge (Leeds City) with Gemma Miles (Kendal) and Felicity Milton (Durham City) close in attendance.

At the completion of lap two Yelling's advantage had increased to 50 metres with Twell now in second place just ahead of Dean and Damen.

On the second of the steep hills on lap three, Yelling came detached from one of her shoes but she managed to slip it back on without losing too much ground.

"I glanced back quickly as I hit the top of the hill, and realised I had time to put the shoe back on,'' said the former European Cross champion.

The positions remained the same going into the final lap but UK steeplechase record holder and last season's Challenge winner, Dean managed to edge ahead of Twell midway though the final circuit but the current European Cross Junior champion regained her second place with less than a kilometre to go.

Yelling was delighted with her victory saying: "I'm glad that I did decide to start, that was a great beginning to my season.''

Twell, who plans to run the junior race at the Trials in Liverpool in two weeks time despite being pre selected for Spain, said: "I'm delighted to finish second to Hayley. The over-distance race is just what I wanted before the Trials and the European Championships.

"The course was a proper cross-country course with the hills in it and I really enjoyed myself.''


[ Zoom ]
Humphries and Ndayisenga
Humphries and Ndayisenga
The senior men's race turned into a cat-and-mouse affair with 26-year-old Jean Ndayisenga sitting on Tom Humphries' shoulder throughout the contest before the Birchfield man eased to the front for the first time midway through the last of the six laps.

"I'm always confident running behind someone especially if the pace is good,'' said Ndayisenga, through an interpreter.

"It was a good race but the hills were extremely tough.''

The pair had opened up a sizeable gap by the midway stage looking as though the challenge of English National Cross-Country champion Frank Tickner (Wells City), Portugal's Vitor Reis, Mike Skinner (Blackheath & Bromley), Lee Merrien (Channel Isalnds) and Billy Farquarson (Notts AC) had been seen off.


Ndayisenga eventually won by five seconds with fast-finishing Tickner taking third place, just two seconds behind Humphries.

23-year-old Humphries was delighted with his second place saying: "I tried a few surges to get away but everytime I did he just followed me. I knew he was in good form but couldn't do anything about it when he went ahead.

"It was a really strong field so it gives me confidence going into Liverpool.

"My target is to make the team for the Europeans and hopefully the Worlds next year.''

Teessider Stephenson pulled out of trip to compete for the North in Tilburg to make his seasonal cross debut at Gateshead and he was pleased he did as he strode home to an emphatic victory over James Trollope (Birchfield Harriers) and Craig Ruddy (Inverclyde).

After his success 18-year-old Stephenson described the Gateshead course as the best he's ever ran on, saying: "It was great. I wasn't sure about the hills but once I got going I really enjoyed myself.

"I can see why they had the World Championships here all those years ago.''

Jessica Coulson (Stockport Harriers) was an equally impressive winner of the Junior Women's event leading Birmingham University-based Irish girl Sara Treacy home by 16 seconds with Helen Rollins (Kettering Town) seven seconds further back in third place.


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Local favourite Chris Parr
Local favourite Chris Parr
The men's international one mile race earned the biggest cheer of the day with local favourite Chris Parr (Gateshead) tasting a one second victory over Gavin Massingham (Sunderland).

Parr, who has completed his studies at Loughborough, celebrated his 23rd birthday early by building a lead which Massingham just failed to haul in at the line.

Welsh trio Chris Moss, James Thie and Stephen Davies (all Cardiff) finished third, fourth and fifth.

The under-17 women's race, which was run in tandem with the junior women's contest, was won by Blue Haywood (Lincoln Wellington) who had to make a dash for her podium place after encouraging her younger sister Bo to third place in the under-13 event.


Laura Weightman (Morpeth) finished second to Haywood with Lerrie Harris (Hull Achilles) third.

Lucy Farnell (Royal Sutton Coldfield) won the under-15 girls race from Holly Shreeve (Bingley) and Rebecca Daines (West Norfolk) while Cumbria schoolmates Hannah Bethwaite (Ellenborough) and Abbie Hetherington (Carlisle Aspatria) fought out the closest finish of the day in the under-13 race with Hannah getting the verdict as both athletes were given the same time of 12:00 for the 3km race, 12 seconds ahead of third-placed Bo Haywood (Lincoln Wellington).

Scotland celebrated success as Chris O'Hare (Edinburgh) won the under-17 Men's 5.9km race by 10 seconds from Jeremy Gilmour (Trafford) with James Robinson (West Norfolk) finishing third.

Daniel Mills (Nuneaton) comfortably won the under-15 Boys race from David Vernon (Nithsdale) and Ben Connor (Derby) while the under-13 Boys race was won by Callum Short (Bolton United) from Harrison Goldray (Gloucester) and Max Aitchison (Victoria Park).


Full results: