12th December 2009

Twelvemedals For AVIVA GB&NI

13 December 2009

It was an impressive medal haul for the Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team as they dominated the 2009 European Cross Country Championships, held in Santry Park, Dublin on 13 December, winning six individual medals and six team medals.

Senior women’s winner Hayley Yelling (Windsor Slough, Eton & Hounslow), the only individual winner of the day, put in an incredible performance with an inspiring return to fitness and rocket fuelled run.

Full race reports below:


JUNIOR WOMEN full distance is 4000m, which is made up of one lap of 1000m and two laps of 1500m

The junior women’s team opened the Aviva GB&NI medal account in the first race of the day with team silver. In great running conditions, a cold crisp morning with no wind, Kate Avery (Shildon) aided the team to the podium with an individual third place finish and bronze medal.

Avery said: “I just tried to work my way through because I didn’t want to start too fast because you’re just going to die if you do that. I always thought she was going to go out like that (Grovdal), I’ve seen her run before and that’s what she does. It felt fast all the way round, but it didn’t feel easy at any part.

“I’m not sure if I expected a medal coming into the race, I think I expected top ten. I was so excited when I crossed the line! Coming into the start of the cross country season you change your aims so this has been my focus.”

Pre race favourite Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal dominated the race from gun to tape, leading with a good ten metres for the majority. Going into the second lap Avery and Lauren Howarth (Leigh Harriers) maintained good positions in third and fourth which translated into third and sixth.

Howarth said: “I’m really pleased, I went off really fast I got nearer to the front and tried to close the gap. I’m just really pleased because I wouldn’t have thought I would have got here a month ago because I’d just come back from injury. I’m just really pleased to have got a team medal.”

Eleanor Wimshurst (Bristol & West), who was drafted into the team following the withdrawl of Charlotte Purdue, ran the race of her life and showed real potential with her 17th place finish with Beth Potter (Victoria Park City of Glasgow) the final scoring athlete in 25th.and added points for the team placing.

Katie Knowles (Bristol & West) finished in 29th with Lily Partridge (AFD) in 39th place.


JUNIOR MEN will run four laps of 1500m totalling 6000m of ground covered.

Nick Goolab (Belgrave Harriers) and James Wilkinson (Leeds City) finished second and third respectively in an exciting finale to the men’s junior race.  With a flurry of Aviva GB&NI vests in the lead pack, the team domination was confirmed with a first place team finish.

Goolab said: “I set off pretty hard on the first lap because I needed to be more aggressive. After about 400m or so and I could see the leaders were there and I thought ‘Wow I’m really close’ I couldn’t believe I was in contention. It was the perfect start, the best start I’ve ever had. I felt good at the start line but it transferred into the race as well. After the first mile I targeted the leaders, I just went into another world at the finish; I turned into a different animal. At 800m out I put a kick in and gave it everything I had. I knew there was a medal there and I really wanted it.”

Led by Wilkinson and trials winner Richard Goodman (Shaftesbury Barnet) the British contingency dominated the front runners with Matthew Gillespie (Shettleston Harriers) also in attendance. Shouting to their team mates to keep moral and push forward, the men held good positions throughout to gift the team medal cause.

In the late stages of the race as the leaders got sight of the finish line Goolab, who had held back for much of the race, pushed on in the final metres to finish second ahead of teammate Wilkinson, who had been in the top three for the latter stages. 

Wilkinson said: “I went off hard. Going into the final lap I thought ‘there are too many of us here’ I found myself at the front somehow and maybe I pushed a little too hard early on. I got it down to three and then I maybe should have eased off a little bit because I let them back in again. I’m really pleased. We’ve been a good team this weekend and just sat there together during that last lap. I thought I was going to win it but I’m really pleased I’ve won two European medals this year so it’s been a great year.”

Goodman, who has just made the step up to Under 20 competition, finished in fifth, followed by Gillespie in 11th, Callum Hawkins (Kilbarchan) in 19th and Johnathan Hay (AFD) in 23rd,  a superb effort for all involved and evidence of a promising future for men’s junior and under 23 teams.


UNDER 23 WOMEN will run 6000m made up of four laps of 1500m

The women’s under23 team, who looked strong on paper coming into the championships, translated that expectation into a team gold medal on the muddy course in the Irish capital, with all six girls through the tape in the top 20 and four in the top ten.

The win was a distant dream for those who chased eventual gold medal winner Sultan Haydar of Turkey, who got an early lead and held onto it with impressive form, but second and third place were very much up for grabs and it was Jessica Sparke (Woodford Green & Essex Ladies) who took full advantage, powering home to take individual bronze.

Sparke said “I’m so happy and so pleased. I just aimed to go off and be in the first group and work my way through. I was hoping I would get an individual medal but the aim was to just be as high up as possible. It didn’t seem that quick, I had a cold at the beginning of the week and I wasn’t able to train but I don’t think it was a bad thing because I felt quite fresh. It was amazing to be on the podium, I’ve always wanted that! I’m so pleased.”

Sparke was followed in quick succession by Charlotte Browning (AFD) and Hollie Rowland (City of Norwich) in fourth and fifth place respectively, with Stevie Stockton (Vale Royal AC), the fourth scoring athlete, in 10th and three times junior women’s champion Stephanie Twell (AFD) in eleventh place.

Natalie Gray (Medway & Maidstone) was the final part of the puzzle for women’s team, finishing in an impressive 18th.


UNDER 23 MEN cover two laps of 1000m and then four laps of the 1500m loop, 8000m in total.             

The GB&NI under 23 men continued a trend of medals at the 2009 championships with team silver in the fourth race of the day.

Mitch Goose (City of Norwich) was first Brit home, taking a notable fifth place amongst some strong European counterparts.

As predicted Ricky Stevenson (New Marske) was also in contention as the leading GB&NI vest in the early part of the race. He held position within the top ten followed by Goose, in a scattered front group which the French dominated, but Goose took the advantage during the penultimate lap and continued to break from his teammate into the final lap, Stevenson eventually finishing in eighth place overall.

Goose said: “I’m really happy. I’m the youngest in the team and I was still first home. I didn’t run particularly well at the trials so it’s good to put that behind me I guess. I had my confidence knocked out of me at Liverpool because I ran pretty badly but today I went off slowly and came through slowly. When you’re running past people it gives you confidence. I could see them in front but I just lacked a bit of confidence to try and reach them.”

Lewis Timmins (Morpeth) was next for GB&NI in 11th place, pursued by Jonathan Taylor (Morpeth) who crossed the line in 21st.  Ashley Harrell (City of Norwich) and Alistair Brownlee (Bingley Harriers) finished in 39th and 48th respectively.


WOMEN two laps of 1000m and four laps of 1500m

In her twelfth appearance at the European Cross Country Championships, Hayley Yelling (Windsor Slough, Eton & Hounslow) won individual gold in the senior women’s race a year after announcing her retirement. Emulating the sprint like pace she maintained throughout the trials in Liverpool, she controlled the race from gun to tape with a 25 yard lead all the way for an outstanding seven second victory.

35 year old Yelling said: “I can’t believe it, I feel great. I’m in shock, but I said that after Liverpool as well. I just wanted to go out hard, because I know that’s how I race better, to just go out and hang on for as long as possible. I expected them to all come past me, but they didn’t but luckily they didn’t.

“I was running scared I think, I thought with two medium laps to go that they would come back but I didn’t know where they were or how far behind. I thought they might have a quick last lap.

“I had no expectation at all, I just wanted to enjoy it. I was thinking about the team really. I’ve been back training sessions for about a month. I might do a few more races and see how I’m doing but I’m not looking as far as the World Cross or anything.

“I think it’s just from all the years of training, recently I have been ticking over running about 40 minutes a day. What was all that 100 miles a week about!? I’m enjoying it so much; I want to get out of the door and run.”

The impressive win, which was backed up by a great ninth place finish by Freya Murray (Chester Le Street & Dist AC), earned six silver medals for the strong team with other notable performances from Katrina Wootton (Bedford & County); Sonia Samuels (Sale) and Laura Kenney (Royal Sutton Coldfield) who were spurred on by the crowds in the park to finish consecutively in 20th, 21st and 22nd place. 

Lauren Deadman (Havering Mayesbrook) brought the team home in 29th, an impressive outing for the senior team with all athletes in the top 30.


MEN cover 10000m in total which begins with one lap of 1000m, and six laps of 1500m.

In the men’s senior race it was Mo Farah (Newham & Essex Beagles) who held the spotlight pre and post race with his altitude preparation and silver medal on the day and his outstanding effort was evident as he crossed the line and collapsed.

Since his European Cross victory in 2006 he has wanted to take the title back but it was just out of reach. Surprisingly, the victory went to Spain’s Alemayehu Bezabeh, who battled with Farah throughout the race, and not Sergey Lebid (Ukraine), one of the pre-race favourites.

The men’s team also prospered as a group securing second place overall and a silver medal with great effort on the sixth race of the day and subsequently quagmire course.

Andy Vernon (AFD) and Mike Skinner (Blackheath & Bromley) fought for the team position with 12th and 13th finishes, ahead of a strong field.

Benedict Whitby (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow) finished in 27th just ahead of Andrew Lemoncello (Fife) in 29th, both pleased to finish in the top 30. Chris Thompson (AFD) closed GB&NI’s competitive day in 55th place.


Please visit the European Athletics website for full results