2nd January 2009

McCain UK Cross Challenge: Antrim Preview


2 January 2009


The McCain UK Cross Challenge series moves on to Northern Ireland this weekend with the hosting of the IAAF Antrim International Cross Country.  Saturday’s event has attracted several leading international athletes as well as several members of the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Team who enjoyed a record medal haul at the recent SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Brussels.

Fresh from her third successive junior women’s gold at the Euro Cross in December, Stephanie Twell (Aldershot, Farnham & District) is stepping into the senior ranks full-time in 2009 and will be looking to start the New Year in a similar vein to what she finished the previous.

The 19 year old collected impressive victories in the senior women’s races at the opening two rounds of the McCain UK Cross Challenge in Gateshead and Liverpool.  In Antrim, her strongest opposition is likely to come from Emebet Etea (Ethiopia), who was third in the junior women’s race at last year’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships and Viktoria Trushenko (Russia), who was 11th in the senior women’s race at the Euro Cross.

Laura Kenney (Royal Sutton Coldfield), 13th in the senior women’s race in Belgium is another strong domestic challenger. In the senior men’s event, Commonwealth 10,000m champion Boniface Kiprop (Uganda) will start as favourite. The main challenge could come from Jean Ndayisenga (Birchfield Harriers/Burundi), who was second in the series opener in Gateshead.

Arizona-based Olympic steeplechaser Andrew Lemoncello (Fife AC) is likely to lead the British challenge. Whilst Steve Vernon (Stockport Harriers) will be looking to make up for his disappointment at missing out on the GB & NI Team that won senior men’s bronze at the Euro Cross.

In a packed day’s programme at the Greenmount College course, ten races will take place commencing with the U13 girls at 11am, climaxing with the senior women’s race at 14:10 and the senior men’s at 14:45.

In the age-group races, Lauren Howarth (Leigh Harriers) will be making her first competitive appearance since winning individual bronze and team gold in the junior women’s race at the Euro Cross and there should also be plenty of interest in the U15 boys race, where Patrick Monaghan (Lagan Valley) has a strong chance of recording a home victory for the Northern Ireland crowd.