28th November 2009

McCAIN Xc Liverpool

28 November 2009

A surprise comeback by Hayley Yelling wowed crowds at the McCain UK Cross Challenge in cold crisp conditions on the muddy course of Sefton Park, Liverpool.

Yelling, who announced her retirement in 2008, made a stunning come back to high level domestic competition winning the senior women’s race, maintaining a confident lead throughout. Ever visible in her bright pink kit she crossed the line to take the win and automatic European Cross Country Championships selection with only three weeks of intensive training behind her.

She said:  ”I’ve been doing a little bit of running. I’ve been running five times a week recently and I’m just really enjoying it. Maybe relaxing is the way forward, I’ve got nothing to prove, no pressure and I just wanted to enjoy myself. I didn’t expect to do well; it’s abit of a shock.”

Second and third place in the race, which was combined under 23 and senior women’s fields, were Freya Murray (senior) and Jessica Sparke (U 23) respectively. Also automatically selected for the forthcoming European competition, which will take place in Dublin on 13 December, will be senior Katrina Wootton who crossed the line in fourth place. 

Hollie Rowland and Stevie Stockton took further automatic selection places to represent the under 23 age group.

The king of consistency Mike Skinner took the men’s senior title after battling with Ben Whitby for much of the late stages. An exciting finish for the crowds gathered in the park saw Skinner take the edge on the final muddy uphill climb against both Whitby and Moumin Geele (who finished second has recently gained UK residency but does not hold a full passport and is therefore not eligible for selection).

The race, which was also inclusive of senior and under 23 men’s start lists, gifted Whitby and Andy Vernon third and fifth places overall, securing their tickets to Dublin.

Skinner, who runs 100 miles a week, said: “I settled on the first lap and got into a rhythm feeling quite comfortable and strong. At the end I saw the finish line and went. I’m pleased. I’ve got a great training group and that brings out the best in you.”

Hot on the heels of the senior front runners was the ever impressive Ricky Stevenson who took the first automatic place in the age group category was fourth overall.  Lewis Timmins and Ashley Harrell were rewarded with automatic selection for their impressive runs and placings of 11th and 13th respectively.

Paying testament to the high quality competition in Liverpool, the under 20 races provided exciting viewing with two under 17 athletes taking wins in both men’s and women’s fields ahead of older competitors.

Top finisher in the women’s under 20 race, including the under 17 age group, was Emelia Gorecka, who is reminiscent of a young Emily Pidgeon who often beat older girls when competing.

Kate Avery and Jessica Coulson, who has returned to full fitness after two seasons marred with injury, took automatic selection places in second and third respectively. 15 year old Gorecka is too young for selection, giving Beth Potter the chance for a GB &NI vest.

There was an unexpected but well deserved win for youngster Richard Goodman, who was followed by James Wilkinson and Jonathan Hay gaining the chance to represent their country against their European counterparts in the Irish capital.

Goodman said: “”I’m 16 and stepping up to U20. I haven’t raced for four weeks; I’ve just been training solidly. It’s been amazing. I’ve stepped up my running to 60 miles a week and today I felt the benefit. I was so happy I was crying on the way up the hill!”  

Six athletes from each age group (U20, U23 and senior) will represent GB&NI at the European Cross Country Championships. Full teams will be announced on Tuesday 1 December.