13th November 2008

Quality Field For McCain Series Launcher



13 November 2008



The McCain UK Cross Challenge Series gets underway this weekend at the Gateshead International. The North East venue has a fine tradition for cross country running and will provide the ideal backdrop for Saturday’s series-launching event.


A series of cracking races are likely throughout the age-groups with strong fields attracted by the guarantee of some quality competition and an overall prize fund of £30,000 across the whole series.


In the senior men’s race, defending series champion Mike Skinner (Blackheath & Bromley) is always a contender but will have his hands full with some tough domestic and international opposition.


English National and Inter-Counties Champion Tom Humphries (Cannock & Stafford), former English champion Frank Tickner (Thames Valley Harriers), GB & NI 1500m and 5000m international Nick McCormick (Morpeth Harriers) and GB & NI marathon international Peter Riley (Leigh Harriers) are also amongst the entries.


Perhaps, the man they all have to watch will be the in-form Steve Vernon (Stockport Harriers), who logged the fastest leg at the recent English Cross Country Relays. A smattering of internationals from Spain and the Netherlands are also entered, as is four-time European Cross Country Champion Paulo Guerra (Portugal). The 38 year old’s best years might be behind him, but he is not one to under-estimate.


In the men’s short-course race, some of the UK’s top milers are expected to enjoy close tussle, including James Thie (Cardiff AAC), Chris Warburton (Notts AC ), Stephen Davies (Belgrave Harriers) and James Brewer (Cheltenham & County).


Series stalwart Hayley Yelling (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow) heads the entries in the senior women’s race. The 2004 European champion will have a hungry pack of emerging British talent to contend with, including World Junior 1500m champion Steph Twell (Aldershot, Farnham & District) and American NCAA 1500m Champion Hannah England (Oxford City).


Hatti Dean (Hallamshire Harriers), 15th in the 2007 World Cross Country Championship, is also in line to make her racing comeback after a foot injury ruled the steeplechaser out of the Olympic Games. Other names to watch out for are last season’s Inter-Counties winner Laura Kenney (Royal Sutton Coldfield) and in-form Freya Murray (Chester le Street), who has ran the fastest legs at both the English Road and Cross Country Relay events in recent weeks.


In the junior men’s race, GB & NI U20 internationals David Forrester (St Helens Sutton), Mitch Goose (City of Norwich) and Ross Murray (Gateshead Harriers) will be looking to put down an early marker just two weeks ahead of the European trials in Liverpool. The same can also be said of the junior women’s race, which promises to be a fascinating affair.


World Junior 1500m bronze medallist Emma Pallant (Aldershot, Farnham & District) faces fellow GB & NI U20 internationals Jo Harvey (Exeter Harriers), Emily Pidgeon (Stroud AC) and Laura Park (Ellenborough AC), the latter of whom is stepping up to the age-group after dominating the U17 class in the 2007/08 season.


Hundreds of other talented and enthusiastic runners will contest races in Veteran, U17, U15, U13 age-groups in a packed programme as the McCain UK Cross Challenge Series kicks off in style.