14th November 2009

Twell Dominant In Gateshead


14 November 2009

Defending champion Stephanie Twell (Aldershot, Farnham & District), on her Scottish debut, demolished the senior women’s field in Gateshead today (Saturday 14 November) with an impressive victory in the opening race of the McCain UK Cross Challenge series.

Building on the success of her Aldershot club mate Charlotte Purdue, who had earlier raced to victory in the junior women’s race, Twell, the three times European junior cross country champion, built an unassailable lead of around 150m over the four lap/8km course.

She led a small group through lap one alongside Scottish team mate Morag MacLarty, Charnwood’s Tara Krzywicki, track specialist Helen Clitheroe and England’s Faye Fullerton, but as they approached the midway point on lap two, a 20-30m gap had opened up.

By lap three, Twell’s lead from the chasing pack – now also including Sonia Samuels (Sale Harriers Manchester), who had started conservatively but moved up to third – had been extended to around 100m and she was unchallenged in the final stages, clocking 28:25 for victory ahead of Clitheroe in second (28:47) and Samuels in third (29:00), with England taking the team title.

“I’m elated,” said Twell, “I had a lot of crowd support out on the course and when I put my kit on this morning I thought ‘this looks good, I feel ready’. I wanted to run in the vest in style end I hope I’ve done well for Scotland. Having won the European Cross three times in a row I really hope I can keep that momentum going this year. I feel confident going into Liverpool and I’m feeling strong. It’s all going really well.”

Earlier, Purdue (England) – the European junior cross country silver medallist – had continued her outstanding 2009 form with a junior women’s 5km win from Kate Avery (Shildon AC) and Scotland’s Beth Potter in second and third respectively.

At the conclusion of the opening short lap (1km), the leading group included Stockport’s Jess Coulson and first-year under-17 Emelia Gorecka (AFD), in addition to Purdue, Avery and Potter.

As they approached the final stages, Purdue had broken clear to finish in style in 17.46 for a 15 second victory. “I haven’t raced a lot of cross country this season and it was good to get out there,” she said. “It was really muddy. I thought I’d get away with my 12mm spikes but thankfully my coach Mick Woods told me to wear my 15mm and I’m glad I did. It was good preparation for Liverpool.”

Gorecka – the 2008 Gateshead under-15 champion – finished third overall and first under-17 in 18:13, leading an Aldershot trio backed up by Ruth Haynes (18:53) in second and Georgia Peel in third (19:23) in a repeat performance of their impressive clean sweep 12 months ago.

“I really enjoyed running with the older girls – it’s was a good experience and I can’t wait to get out there and race more with the under-20s,’ she said. “I really want some early experience before I get into the big competitions, and although I’m too young for the European Cross, I hope I can make the team for the Worlds in March.”

Continuing the Aldershot domination in the age-group races, Johnny Hay ran a perfectly timed race for to win the junior men’s 8km title in 26:02.

The lead group of 20 were inseparable through the early stages, but by lap three a group of five – England team pair Nick Goolab and Johnny Wilkinson, Shettleston’s Matthew Gillespie, Hay and Scotland’s Callum Hawkins – had broken clear.

As they approached the final lap, Hawkins was 30m adrift, and with one kilometre to go, it was down to three with Gillespie falling off the pace.

Eventually, it was Hay who had the pace to take the lead and sprint to victory ahead of Goolab (26:04) and Wilkinson (26:09). “I sat in, basically listened to my coach Mick Woods and just waited on the right moment to go,” he said. “I can’t wait for the trial in Liverpool.”

In the men’s senior races, Ricky Stevenson, who turned 21 today, and Shettleston Harriers’ Tsegei Tewelde were exceptional competitors in tough conditions, the former winning the men’s one lap (2km) invitational and finishing fourth in the long course (9km), the latter finishing runner-up in both events.

Mike Skinner was the overall 9km winner, biding his time in the lead group – around 20 in the early stages – before making his break for victory.

The lead trio of Skinner, Tewelde and England’s Scott Overall approached the penultimate lap 40m clear of the chasing pack, but Overall had soon been dropped and was 20m off the pace going into the final loop.

Skinner had the speed to break clear in the final stages, eventually easing to victory in 28:14 ahead of Tewelde (28:18), with Overall finishing in 28:34 for third.

“I raced to our plan. My coach said to sit in for the early laps and then if possible to wind it up and I stuck to that. It was heavy underfoot and you had to work to keep your balance. I felt strong. I can’t take anything for granted but I’m looking forward to Liverpool. I’ve got another two weeks of hard training before then. There are a lot of good guys out there who want to make the team but I definitely want to be part of it.”

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