15th January 2014

Cardiff Cross Challenge Preview

17 January 2014

The fourth leg of the British Athletics Cross Challenge takes place at Cardiff’s Blackweir Fields on Sunday, 19 January.

Following events in Bristol, Liverpool and Antrim, this will be the last opportunity for athletes to pick up Cross Challenge points ahead of the final in Birmingham on Saturday 8 March, where double points will be available.

The current senior men’s Cross Challenge standings are topped jointly by Dewi Griffiths (Kevin Evans) and Adam Hickey (Eamonn Martin) and both athletes are in action on Sunday.

Local athlete Griffiths, who competes for Swansea Harriers, was a member of the gold medal winning GB & NI under 23 team at the European Cross Country Championships in Belgrade last month, finishing 16th individually, and more recently was 12th at the British Athletics Cross Challenge in Antrim at the start of the month and 16th at the Bupa Great Edinburgh XCountry.

Hickey will also arrive in Cardiff in good recent form following a 25th place finish in the senior men’s race at the European Cross, a tenth place finish in Antrim and 15th in Edinburgh.

Another Welshman, 20 year old Charlie Hulson (Paul Roden), was selected for the senior men’s team in Belgrade, where he finished 37th, and was 23rd in Edinburgh. Meanwhile Jonathan Hay (Mick Woods) was 12th in the under 23 race at the European Cross and made the top ten in Edinburgh last weekend.

Four-time UK steeplechase champion Luke Gunn (Bud Baldaro) returns to cross country as he continues to move closer to his best form ahead of the 2014 track season.

The senior women’s race will be equally competitive with Cross Challenge leader Charlotte Purdue (Woods), who was second in Liverpool and fifth overall in Antrim (first in the Cross Challenge), the woman to beat. The 22 year old won individual bronze and team gold in Belgrade and last weekend was fifth in Edinburgh.

Purdue will face a strong field that includes Wales’ Caryl Jones (George Edwards), who was second in Cardiff in 2012 and is a former winner of the Bristol Cross Challenge. Mountain running specialist Sarah Tunstall, who won a silver medal in the under 23 women’s race at the 2008 European Cross, was eighth in the World Mountain Running Championships last year and will hope to translate that form onto the mud and hills of Cardiff on Sunday.

Also in the senior women’s field are Hampshire champion Louise Small (Woods), who was seventh in Cardiff last year, Gemma Kersey (Martin), a GB & NI international at the 2011 European Cross Country Championships in Slovenia, and another former GB & NI representative Laura Whittle (George Gandy), who will make her first cross country appearance of the season in Cardiff.

Annabel Gummow (Neville Taylor), who represented GB & NI at the 2011 European Junior Championships and at the European Cross Country Championships in both 2010 and 2011, will compete in a cross country race for the first time since last October.

The standout name in the under men’s race is Alex George (Paul de-Camps), who was the first GB & NI finisher at the recent Bupa Great Edinburgh XCountry and was second in the under 17 race in Cardiff last year.

His sternest challenges are likely to come in the form of Ben Bradley (Mick Woods), who was seventh at the Bristol Cross Challenge in August and finished fourth at the English Schools Cross Country Championships last year, sixth place finisher in Bristol Tom Hook (Tim Ash) and Greater Manchester champion Jack Nixon (David Turnbull).

There is likely to be an exciting three-way battle in the under 20 women’s race. Sisters Bobby and Alex Clay (both Peter Mullervy) finished first and second at the Bupa Great Edinburgh XCountry last weekend, and Bobby was also eighth as part of the gold medal winning GB & NI junior women’s team at the European Cross Country Championships last month.

The Clay sisters will be opposed by Siobhra O’Flaherty of Ireland though. Aged just 15, she won the combined under 17 and under 20 women’s race at the Antrim leg of the British Athletics Cross Challenge two weeks ago.

Also competing in the under 20 women’s race is Warwickshire champion Katie Ingle (Margaret Riley), who represented GB & NI in the 3,000m steeplechase at the European Junior Championships in Rieti last summer, where she qualified for the final and finished 11th.

For more information on the British Athletics Cross Challenge click here.  For live updates from Antrim follow @BritAthletics on Twitter and get involved using #CardiffCC and #mudisgood. Look out for highlights on http://www.youtube.com/britishathleticstv next week.