27th November 2014

Liverpool Looming

28 November 2014

The first leg in the British Athletics Cross Challenge kicks off in Liverpool this weekend, and the race incorporates the European Cross Country Championship trials, with places on the plane to Samokov up for grabs.

Gemma Steel (coach: John Nuttall) will lead the senior women’s field as she looks to qualify for another European Cross Country Championships following her silver medal in 2013. After a stunning second place finish and a new half marathon personal best at the Great North Run in October, she will be one of the favourites for victory at Sefton Park.

Many of the women’s U23 team gold medallists from Belgrade twelve months ago have moved up to the senior age group this year which will make it one of the most keenly anticipated races of the day. Charlotte Purdue (Nic Bideau), the 2013 European U23 Cross Country bronze medallist will be challenging at the top end of the field in Liverpool alongside fellow Aldershot Farnham & District athlete, Lily Partridge (Mick Woods) who has been in good form recently.

Steph Twell (Woods) is arguably back to her best after running a lifetime best and earning a victory at the Leeds Abbey Dash 10k recently and will be looking to pull on the GB & NI vest again. European 1500m bronze medallist Laura Weightman (Steve Cram) may well be in the mix after her successes of the last twelve months and Katie Brough (Andrew Carter) will return from the British Athletics Altitude Camp in Kenya looking for a good performance over the 8.1km course in Liverpool.

Emelia Gorecka (Woods) leads the battle for places on the women’s U23 team for Samokov. The Royal Holloway University student has dominated the junior women’s competition over the last few years but will now step up to the U23 age group, which is incorporated into the senior women’s race. Rhona Auckland (Joyce Hogg), part of the European U23 gold medal winning team in 2013, has been in impressive form during the early stages on the winter season and so will be looking to book her spot on the team.

The women’s U20 race will be one of the most competitive of the day with plenty of athletes striving for places on the team going to Bulgaria. Lydia Turner (Thomas Millmore) delivered an eye-catching display at the Cross de Atapuerca in Spain recently, winning the U20 IAAF Permit cross country race. After winning selection to the GB & NI team as an U17 last year, she will be looking to earn her second European call-up on Saturday.

Jessica Judd (George Gandy) will be another of the favourites for victory in Liverpool. The 19 year-old made the team for Budapest back in 2012 and after running the fastest leg at the English National Cross Country Relays earlier this month, the Loughborough-based athlete will feature at the front over the 4.4km course. Harriet Knowles-Jones (Russell Tart) and Amy Griffiths (Woods) are also likely to feature at the sharp end.

After a blistering start to his winter, Andrew Butchart (Derek Easton) will go into the senior men’s race as one of the favourites to secure a spot on the GB & NI team. He won the Leeds Abbey Dash a fortnight ago in a new personal best of 29:17 and is searching for a call-up to the Great Britain & Northern Ireland team after just missing out in 2013. Another Scottish athlete, Luke Caldwell (Bideau), will be another challenging for victory.

Others targeting a place on the GB & NI team include Andrew Heyes (Keith Whitelam) who has been in good form running the quickest leg at the English National Cross Country Relays in Mansfield earlier in the month, and Stockport Harrier Ross Millington (Steve Vernon). A winner in Liverpool back in 2012, Jonathan Taylor (Gordon Surtees) will also be looking to rediscover his best form in Sefton Park to earn selection for his country.

The contest for places on the men’s U23 team will be tough with a plethora of athletes seeking to fill those six places on the team. Marc Scott (Steve Gulley), the first British finisher at the NCAA Cross Country in Terre Haute last weekend returns to race on UK soil, and will be one of the favourites alongside Callum Hawkins (Robert Hawkins), second at the Leeds Abbey Dash a couple of weeks ago; and Jonny Hay (Woods), a runner-up at the trials in 2013.

Other U23 men in contention include Jonathan Davies (Rob McKim), winner of the U20 race in Liverpool twelve months ago, and fellow Great Britain & Northern Ireland teammate in Belgrade 2013, Michael Callegari (Nadeem Shaikh), who will both make the step up to the U23 age group. 1500m man Charlie Grice (Jon Bigg), who has flown back from the high-altitude camp in Kenya this week and reigning Inter-Counties champion Richard Goodman (Woods) will also be in the mix.

Athletes targeting a spot in the men’s U20 team include Zak Miller (Paul Shaw) and Jack Crabtree (Norman Poole) who were both members of the GB & NI U20 men’s team in Serbia 2013.

Other possible threats over the 6.7km course include James McMurray (Deborah Steer), who ran the second fastest leg at the English National Cross Country Relays earlier this month, and Liam Dee (Ricardo Santos).

For more information on European Cross Country Championships selection policy, click here.

For all the information on the British Athletics Cross Challenge, including timetable, entry lists and directions, click here.