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Twell Wins McCain Opener

Steph Twell Gateshead XC 2008

15th November 2008


Steph Twell (Aldershot, Farnham & District) proved she is more than ready for the step up from junior level as she triumphed in the senior women’s race at the opening meeting of the McCain UK Cross Challenge Series in Gatshead on Saturday.

The 19 year old is targeting a third successive junior women’s title at the European Cross Country Championships in Brussels next month, before stepping into the seniors in 2009. But at a windy Gateshead, the World Junior 1500m gold medallist looked well equipped to make the jump, running a mature race to defeat a strong domestic field.

Louise Damen (Winchester & District) led in the early stages, but on the third of the five lap race, Twell emerged from the charging pack and spurted clear. From that point there was no catching the fleet-footed youngster, but Damen stayed strong and in the end was only four seconds adrift of Twell’s winning time of 26:46.

Former European Cross champion Hayley Yelling (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow) was third in 27:08, with Scots duo Laura Kenny (Royal Sutton Coldfield) and Freya Murray (Chester le Street) fourth and fifth.

Afterwards, Twell said: “I really enjoyed it. I thought it was a really good race. I judged it well I moved through the field. I worked the hills and I’m really pleased.”

Damen said: “I’ve already done a couple of lower key league races and this was my first one of the season. It was kind of a warm up race for the trials and I’m really looking forward them.” She commented, looking towards the European Trials in Liverpool two weeks hence.


The senior men’s race was won by Netherland’s Michel Butter who made light of the hills to win in 28:18 from Highgate-based Burundian Jean Ndayisenga (Birchfield Harriers). There was a real scrap behind them, with just five seconds separating Andy Vernon (Aldershot, Farnham & District), Steve Vernon (Stockport Harriers), Frank Tickner (Wells City Harriers), Keith Gerrard (Newham & Essex Beagles) and Mike Skinner (Blackheath & Bromley) as they finished in that order.

Andy Vernon said: “It was hard after the third lap I really started to feel it and for the second f half I really had to work hard to stay with the lead group.  Training is going really well. I raced hard today but I wanted to win.”

Steve Vernon said: “I want to make the team for Brussels on a muddy course, if we get our best team out there we are in with a shout of a gold. I had to have a few days off last week, but I raced well. I’m looking forward to the trials I want to go there and try to win.”

In the senior men’s one lap race, James Brewer (Cheltenham & County) won in a blanket finish from Ricky Stevenson (New Marske Harriers) and Gareth Turnbull (St Malachys AC). The junior men’s race was won by David Forrester (St Helens Sutton), whilst the junior women’s race was won by Emma Pallant (Aldershot, Farnham & District).

Forrester said: “I felt really strong, I’ve been training really well doing a lot of miles and I just wanted to get out and compete. I want to go and win the Euros. That’s my focus, I want to go out and win in Belgium. I need to do a bit more speed work between now and then but so far, so good.”