7th February 2015

Super Wins For Hickey And Nesbitt In Milton Keynes

7 February 2015 

Adam Hickey (coach: Eamonn Martin) and Jenny Nesbitt (David Walker) earned magnificent victories in the senior races at Milton Keynes in the third Cross Challenge event and first to be held at Teardrop Lakes.

Hickey, the senior men’s Cross Challenge leader followed on from his comfortable win in Cardiff to beat a strong field which had assembled in Buckinghamshire. The first lap was a close affair with the Southend athlete running within a pack of seven athletes who were opening up a lead on the rest of the field. This group included fellow GB & NI international Andrew Butchart (Derek Easton), Welsh athlete Dewi Griffiths (Kevin Evans) and Richard Goodman (Mick Woods).

It was on the last lap that Hickey made the most important move of the race as he put his foot down on the accelerator to blow away the competition. Central’s Butchart attempted to go with the break but could not hold off the burst of speed from Hickey who claimed another Cross Challenge win. This puts him in pole position for the top prize in the final event to be held Birmingham in March.

Hickey said afterwards: “That was really good out there today – I just keep trying to build on from these and be in good shape for the races ahead. I was trying to hold off in the early stages which I find hard to do. Usually in past seasons I have gone off hard and paid the price. It was a case of waiting because there were a lot of tough opponents in the field so I’m glad I held off a bit.

“It would be good to get the win in Birmingham. I have struggled there in the last few years but hopefully it is coming along nicely and I’ll aim to be up there in a few weeks’ time”

Butchart claimed second place with Griffiths earning another third position. Northern Cross Country champion Andrew Davies (Steve Vernon) was fourth with Goodman one place further back and Dean Lacy (Mark Newell) who was second in the Cardiff event last month, next home.

In the senior women’s race, there was a surprise win for Worcester’s Jenny Nesbitt who was making her debut senior cross country appearance. The 20 year-old admitted that she hadn’t recced the final part of the course because she assumed she would be following other athletes into the finish. She will go into the final event at Cofton Park with high confidence after her race win.

A delighted Nesbitt spoke about her joy after the race: “Genuinely, I cannot believe it – I am over the moon. I didn’t walk the last bit of the course because I expected to follow people in. I was originally aiming for a top ten position. I didn’t come into the race with any real expectations because it is my first senior race so I didn’t know what to expect.

“I discussed it (tactics) with my coach and we said that if I felt good then go for it. At the top of the hill I felt good so I decided to go for it there. I looked to see what the gap was like and tried to maintain it. I don’t like sitting and waiting behind – if I’m feeling good, I’d rather be at the front in case anything happens.”

Nesbitt extended a convincing lead on the final half of the last lap to beat the resurgent Louise Small (Woods) who enjoyed a strong run for second place and Sarah Tunstall in third.

European Cross Country team gold medallist Phoebe Law (Richard Holt) showed her class as she won the U20 women’s race. The Kingston AC & Poly athlete bided her time on the opening lap but went with the first significant move of the race as Bronwen Owen (Andrew Henderson), second in Cardiff, opened up a lead. However, Law quickly shut the move down and raced away to claim a Cross Challenge win after second place in Liverpool last November.

Law commented: “It was amazing today – I don’t usually win races so it’s nice to do it here. I’ve been ill this week but I’ve still managed to do my sessions but I’ve just been very slow and sluggish. I wanted to see what the pace was like on the first lap and decide from there what to do. I just gave it everything in that final stretch.

On Euro Cross team gold medal: “It gives you confidence because when you are warming up you are thinking, come on, you’ve represented GB, and if I can run in Bulgaria I can run anywhere.”

Ireland’s Kevin Mulcaire won the U20 men’s race with Iolo Hughes (Andrew Walling) earning valuable Cross Challenge points in second place. He was sitting in second behind Jac Hopkins (Kevin Tobin) in the overall U20 standings prior to the race but the Menai athlete won his battle with Inverclyde’s Jonathan Glen (Mark Pollard) who finished in third.

There was victory for Wales in the U17 women’s race with Heidi Davies coming out on top.  Davies, who was running in the combined race with the U20’s, stuck with the leading U20 women for the majority of the race to win the U17 event by over twenty seconds. The Brecon athlete was agonizingly pipped into second in Cardiff but held on for the win to extend her lead at the top of the Cross Challenge standings. Skerries Isabel Carron and Scarborough’s Emma Clapton were second and third respectively.

There was double joy for the Carcas family as brothers Alex and Freddie won the U17 and U15 men’s races respectively. The Edinburgh athletes won in very different ways. Alex opened up a 70m lead on the opening lap which continued to increase and his competitors were out of sight by the time he turned into the finishing straight. He beat Hugo Milner and Benjamin Boulter (Peter Stewart) into the other podium places.

Freddie Carcas on the other hand endured a tougher test with only two seconds separating the top three. Carcas had built up a 40m lead half way around the final lap but early leader Oliver Barbaresi (Walling) and Cameron Main reeled in the Scottish athlete in the closing stages. However, Carcas held on to add to several Scottish wins on the day.

Khahisa Mhlanga returned to form with a good win in the U15 girl’s race ahead of Cardiff’s Abi Fisher (Phil Banning). Mhlanga, running for Chelmsford had to battle hard with Emily Thompson on the first lap but had the strength to pull away from her competitors and take the win in Milton Keynes.

There was double Scottish success in the U13 events as previous Cross Challenge winners Hamish Armitt and Emma Frew (Alan Sprang) claimed a second win. Ayr Seaforth’s Frew won in Liverpool last year, and returned to the Cross Challenge scene with a fifteen second victory over her closest rivals. Armitt followed up victory in Cardiff to win once again but had a battle on his hands after a late surge from Leeds City’s Tommy Dawson but the Giffnock athlete held on.

There were wins in the U11 age groups from Vale of Aylesbury’s Anne Cuthbert and Tonbridge’s Maxin Bregan which started off the programme at Teardrop Lakes.

The Cross Challenge moves onto the finale at Cofton Park in Birmingham on the 7 March. Full details of the event can be found on our website at the Cross Challenge page.

Full results from the Milton Keynes Cross Challenge can be found here.