3rd January 2009

Twell Wins In Antrim


03 January 2009


19 year old Stephanie Twell followed in the hallowed footsteps of British legends Paula Radcliffe and Liz McColgan by triumphing in the IAAF International Cross Country in Northern Ireland on Saturday afternoon.


The meeting, which moved from Belfast to Antrim this year, was the latest round of the McCain UK Cross Challenge Series and is one of the most prestigious annual cross country meetings in the UK. Twell’s victory was her third successive victory in the senior women’s class in this year’s series following earlier triumphs in Gateshead and Liverpool.


It followed hot on the heels of another recent Twell hat-trick, having taken the the junior women’s title at December’s SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Brussels for the third time in a row.

Now a full-time senior athlete, Twell showed she is ready for the step-up, holding off a strong challenge from Ireland’s Deirdre Byrne by one second in 18:25 on the 5.6k course. Scotland’s Freya Murray was third in 18:32, with USA’s Emily Brown fourth.


Afterwards, Twell (Aldershot, Farnham & District) said:  “I love racing. I think the most important thing is to enjoy your sport. I train to race. I felt strong, I knew she (Byrne) was there. But I knew I had a sprint in me. I really enjoyed it. It was a brilliant circuit with different terrain the whole way round. I’d definitely like to come back.”

Murray (Chester le Street) has returned to form this season after a lean couple of years, afterwards she said: “I’ve changed everything. I’ve changed coach, increased my mileage, started doing harder sessions, I had altitude training at the start of the season. I went to Colorado to train with Steve Jones’s group. It really inspired me and motivated me again.

“I’ve changed my sessions to be in the morning rather than the evening. Ian Whyte is coaching me and Jared Deacon does my strength and conditioning and that’s working really well.  I fell really fit now. It’s good to be back!”


In the senior men’s race Jida Merga (Ethiopia) upset Commonwealth 10,000m champion Boniface Kiprop (Uganda) to win a sprint finish in 24:32. Arizona-based Scot Andrew Lemoncello (Fife AC) was third in 24:49, despite having only returned to the UK on January 1st.

Afterwards, Lemoncello said: “On the fourth lap, I got a little stuck in the mud and kind of let them go. But I managed to hold it together, it was just that one lap and they got away. It’s my first cross country since the World Cross (Edinburgh, March 2008) and my first race in five weeks, so it was good. It was good to refresh the memory about cross country.”

In the junior men’s race, Michael Williams (Leeds City AC) took advantage of some absentees to record a fine win. The 19 year old was 50th in the McCain UK Cross Challenge in Liverpool but put in a vastly improved display for a career-best result in 17:39. Adam Bitchell (Carmarthan Harriers) was five seconds adrift in second, with third-placed Eoin Rowan (Donore Harriers) a further two seconds back.

Williams said: “I just eased away from the field after the first lap. I knew there quite a few good people in there, quite a few missing too. I’ve been injured for the last year, so I didn’t really know how I’d run. I’ve been cross raining for the past year, so I’ve been quite fit. I didn’t run at all well at Liverpool, but then I didn’t think I’d run that well here. I just felt good on the day.”


In the junior women’s/U17 women’s race, Louise Small (Aldershot, Farnham & District) was an impressive winner, kicking clear from U17 entrant Ciara Mageen (City of Lisburn) in the closing stages, with another U17 athlete Beth Carter (Invicta East Kent AC) taking third.

Afterwards, Small said: “It was tricky out there. Ciara gave me a good run and I just broke away with the last kilometre to go. I felt strong the whole way. I’m now looking for selection for the World Cross, so that’s my main aim for the cross country season really. We really trained hard over Christmas, every day apart from Christmas day.”


In the remaining McCain UK Cross Challenge races, there were victories for Jonathan Hopkins (Bridgend AC) in the U17 men’s race, Grant Muir (Giffnock North) in the U15 boys race, Ciara Hewson (Mullingar Harriers) in the U15 girls race, Padraig Moran (Mullingar Harriers) in the U13 boys race and Linda Conroy (Mullingar Harriers) in the U13 girls race.