5th March 2011

Purdue And Vernon Race To Senior Titles In Birmingham

05 March 2011

Charlotte Purdue (coach: Mick Woods) – in an absolutely dominant display of front running reminiscent of her European Junior Cross Country Championships victory in December – recorded yet another outstanding performance with her first domestic senior cross country title in the McCain UK Cross Challenge Final and World Cross Trials at Cofton Park, Birmingham, today (Saturday 5 March).

The diminutive Aldershot athlete, running for Hampshire, was joined by all of the leading contenders throughout the early stages of the race including Gemma Steel (coach: Roy Stowell), Sonia Samuels (coach: George Gandy), Julia Bleasdale, Hatti Dean (coach: Bud Baldaro), Naomi Taschimowitz (coach: Charlotte Fisher) and Stevie Stockton (coach: George Gandy), however, the relatively big pack was reduced to three as Purdue soon took the lead with only Dean and Bleasdale for company.

As they moved into the final 3km of the 8km course, Taschimowitz had moved into third at the expense of Bleasdale who had gone off hard in the early stages was starting to pay the price, but Purdue was clearly benefiting from her steady start and was growing stronger with every stride. As her lead increased to 12 seconds on the long downhill sweep with 2km to go, there was no doubt she would absolutely destroy the field.

In the end, she won by 30 seconds in 27:29, not only taking individual gold but also leading Hampshire to the UK Inter Counties title, and in doing so she became the youngest winner of the senior title in 20 years. “I felt so strong in the BUCS cross country but I didn’t feel so good at the National, I just didn’t feel myself,” she admitted of her most recent performances, “but I really wanted to dominate today…” and she did, with Dean, representing Yorkshire, second in 27:59 and Taschimowitz (Avon & Somerset) in third with one of the best runs of her career to date (28:02).

“I wanted to win and I wouldn’t have been happy with anything else,” she continued. “I knew Hatti would be strong but I really missed Steph (her team mate Stephanie Twell) out there. I spoke to her before the race and I really hope that we can race together next year; with the exception of the road relays we’ve never had the chance to run together in a team event.

“I can’t wait for the World Cross now – I want to be the first non-African finisher.”

Andy Vernon (coach: Nick Anderson), securing his third successive McCain UK Cross Challenge Series victory, also looked impressive in taking victory in the senior men’s 12k race.

Initially there was nothing to split the lead group of 24, but Ryan McLeod (coach: John  Nuttall), who narrowly missed out on selection for this weekend’s European Indoor Championships, injected some much-needed pace at the start of the second lap and he soon moved into a narrow lead ahead of a group which included Tom Humphries (coach: Phil Clamp), Derek Hawkins (coach: Lawrie Spencer), the Scottish National champion, Mike Skinner (coach: Andy Hobdell) and Vernon.

Humphries, a three-time Inter Counties winner, had taken the lead by the half way point and as the pace picked up yet again, the group of ten became six and was soon reduced to four as he was joined by only Skinner, Vernon and McLeod.

With 3k to go Vernon made his decisive move and he broke clear at the top end of the course to build a title winning lead within minutes, going on to take the title in 35:45 ahead of Mike Skinner (35:53) and Tom Humphries (35:56).

“It was very satisfying, I’m pleased with that,” said the Hampshire athlete. “Obviously it’s nice to win, but the race went as I wanted it to; I didn’t want to blast if for the full 12k because I’ve been doing a lot of high mileage and we’re only two weeks out from the World Cross, but I didn’t have to as it really became a 6k race.”

McLeod, who eventually finished fourth in 36:11, led North East to the team title.

The junior races, also World Cross Country Trial events, went to form as Mick Woods-coached duo Jonny Hay and Emelia Gorecka won in style.

Representing Surrey – later crowned UK Inter Counties champions in the under-20 age group – Hay ran a mature and tactically perfect race to secure the junior men’s title over 8km (25:17).

Having sat comfortably in the lead group with defending champion Richard Goodman (coach: Geoff Williams), English National under-17 champion Kieran Clements – who briefly led the race in the opening quarter – Scottish National champion Ross Matheson (coach: Dave Campbell) and Tom Curr (coach: Chris Frapwell), Hay and Goodman soon broke clear and opened up an unassailable gap.

Clements, who had stepped up an age group to race the World Cross junior trial race, led the chasing pack of four in a brave performance, but the gap to the leaders was growing. With a mile to go Ian Bailey (coach: Mick Woods) of Surrey was battling with Matheson (Scotland East) for third, and although they were benefiting from their own battle within the main race to close in slightly on Hay and Goodman (Middlesex), there was no doubt it would remain a fight for bronze.

As the lead duo moved into the finish loop, Hay turned on the pace to reinforce his dominance in the junior men’s category with a confident victory to leave Goodman to take silver (25:28). Matheson was third in 25:35.

“At points he (Goodman) picked it up but I managed to stick with him and I knew I had the pace to win it,” said Hay of his battle with last year’s winner. “We’ve raced each other so much I knew how to run it and I just played to those tactics.

“I’ve really come on this winter, especially since Christmas, and I’ve really developed as an athlete. I’ve always had a good finish but now I can hold the pace throughout the race. I want to continue this form into the World Cross and finish first European; I’d like to sneak into the top 30.”

Continuing the hugely successful day for Aldershot, Farnham and District (AFD), and indeed, Surrey, Gorecka made it a trio of Trial race victories for Mick Woods-coached athletes with another brilliant performance when winning the junior women’s Inter Counties title over 6km (20:34), her fifth consecutive victory in this domestic season finale.

Jenny Walsh (coach: Deborah Rowlands) took the talented field by surprise when she raced into an early lead but it was inevitable that she’d be run down by the chasing pack led by defending champion Gorecka and backed up by fellow AFD athletes Louise Small (Hampshire) and Georgia Peel (Surrey) plus Cornwall’s Annabel Gummow (coach: Chris Wooldridge), amongst others.

With 2km to go there was absolutely no doubt about it however, and Gorecka had soon moved clear with almost seven seconds on second-placed Gummow as they moved into the final loop, eventually taking victory and leading Surrey to the overall team title with four athletes inside the top ten.

“It was an awesome course and I ran a similar race to last year,” said Gorecka, who admitted she wasn’t concerned by the early break from Walsh. “I’d always planned to run the first lap steadily but I started to pull away without really meaning to. I felt good, so I thought I’d just get down with it and motor on.

“I train with these girls all the time so it was good to be running alongside them; it’s familiar and I know how to race them.”

Gummow finished second in 20:42 with Small, who had been struggling with a cold all week, taking third (20:57).

In the non-Trial races, under-17 Jessica Judd (coach: Jeremy Freeman), winner in Birmingham 12 months ago and second in the English National cross country in February, continued her great run of form with a brilliant display of front running to retain her title and record one of the most impressive performances of the day; she took victory for Essex in 18:27, almost one minute clear of runner-up Alice Wright (Worcestershire) over the 5k course, but Worcestershire held out for the team title.

Mark Shaw led the North East to the UK Inter Counties team title with individual victory in the men’s under-17 6k race in 19:00 ahead of Bradley Goater (Middlesex) in second (19:13).

Under-15 favourite Adam Howard (Greater Manchester), the English National champion, took the boys age-group title – and with it the McCain UK Cross Challenge Series overall prize – with victory over 4.5km in 14:58 while Natalia Hackett of Yorkshire won the girls’ 4km race in 15:33. The team titles went to Hampshire and Surrey respectively.

And further highlighting the strength and depth of Hampshire across all age groups, George Butler led the under-13 boys’ team to the UK Inter Counties title with victory in the 3km race (10:23) while defending champion Katie Rowe, the 2010 McCain UK Cross Challenge overall winner, took the girls’ individual title and spearheaded the Hampshire team challenge when racing to gold in 11:07.

Full results are on the McCain UK Cross Challenge section of the UKA website in addition to the final overall standings in the McCain UK Cross Challenge Series for 2011.

Select the Birmingham tab and scroll to the foot of the page.

The Aviva GB&NI team for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Punta Umbria, Spain, will be selected on Monday 7 March.