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mccain bristol cross challenge

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Gemma Steel
Gemma Steel - senior women's winner in McCain Bristol Cross Challenge

13 November 2011

Gemma Steel (coach: John Nuttall) and Frank Tickner opened their 2011/12 McCain UK Cross Challenge Series accounts with victories in the senior events in the McCain Bristol Cross Challenge - staged by runbristol in partnership with Bristol & West AC and UKA - at the Ashton Court Estate today (Sunday 13 November), while impressive junior wins went to Kieran Clements (Steve Benson) and Annabel Gummow (Chris Wooldridge).

Steel, who has shown outstanding road form in recent months and was crowned winner of the 2011 runbritain Grand Prix, pulled clear in the early stages and had a lead of almost 40 seconds on second-placed Justina Heslop (self-coached) with one lap to go, while Heslop fought her own battle with Naomi Taschimowitz (Charlotte Fisher) for the minor places.

Steel maintained the gap and finished in 25:26 while Taschimowitz, who, along with Steel was a member of the Aviva GB & NI team at 2011 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, had overtaken Heslop for a second place finish in 26:07. Heslop, who enjoyed victory in the adidas women’s 5k in London in September, carried on her form into the cross country season finishing third in 26.16.

“I felt quite comfortable considering the the course,” said Steel; “it was probably one of hardest cross courses I‘ve run on. I couldn’t get much speed, but I think that sort of course suits me because I’m just one of those athletes that will just keep going and the stamina kicks in, but it was a big of a slog.

“It was a good test today for me. It’s great preparation for the European Cross Trials in a couple of weeks and that’s the main focus at the moment.”

Tickner, in a welcome return to both form and fitness after a number of injury problems, was in the leading pack from the start, although initially had to sit back as his brother, Ben, took the lead.

After the first three laps, with the leading pack made up of Phil Wicks, Dewi Griffiths (Kevin Evans) and both Tickners, Frank - undoubtedly a cross country specialist and tenth place finisher at the European Cross Country Championships in 2008 - kicked clear to build a lead ahead of Wicks to finish 12 seconds clear in 29:56.

Wicks, the men’s winner of the runbritain Grand Prix and benefiting from his marathon training over the summer, looked strong in second (30.08) with Griffiths third in 30:17.

“I’m very pleased, this was my first competitive race back,” said Tickner. “It was good to come back in what was not the strongest field it could have been, but that’s probably a good thing in the lead up to Liverpool (European Cross Trials).”

“I got the chance to test myself against some big names, but not the same depth as the Liverpool race will have; I think when the guys come back from training in Kenya it could be a different story in a couple of weeks time, but it was a good confidence builder, definitely.

“If I don’t make the European team I don’t think I will be as upset as I might have been in previous seasons, I’m just glad to be back running and I just want to keep building my fitness and not get injured.”

Running a similar race to Gemma Steel in the senior women’s race, Bristol’s 2011 European U20 Championships 5000m bronze medallist Annabel Gummow absolutely dominated from gun to tape in the under 20s women’s race. Finishing with well over a minute lead, she clocked 17:43 followed by Hanna Tarver (David Jeffs) and Ireland’s Kate Veale in second (19:07) and third (19:12) respectively.

“I train hard all year round, I train by myself and it’s very challenging, but I love running and that’s all I do really,” said Gummow, who was tenth and third Aviva GB & NI scorer in the 2010 European Cross Country Championships. “I prepare myself the best I can and there are such good girls in my age group, which drives me on even more.

“Getting a bronze medal at European Juniors this year on the track has made me really want it even more. I feel like there's lots more to come, so I will try to peak for the Europeans.

“I really enjoyed the course today, Bristol did a great job at staging it and I am really looking forward to Liverpool now.”

In the junior men’s race it was Kieran Clements who was dominant at the front, with Liam Brady of Ireland chasing hard.

Finishing in a time of 23.31, Clements, who went off hard and didn’t look back, was the impressive winner followed by Brady (24.16) and Alex Hill in third place in 24.24.

“I’m pleased with my performance today, I expected a bit more of a challenge but it was good to get out there and slog it out by myself and get some good preparation for Liverpool,” said Clements.

“Liverpool is the big target and if I get into the team for the Europeans that would be pretty much good enough for me this year. If I get there I would push for a top 15 place, so I will just see what I can do.

“It was a tough course, I kicked a lap too early not realising I had another lap to go, so it was quite tough.”

The McCain age group titles went to: under 17s Jonathan Davies (Reading AC) and Becky Straw (Cannock & Stafford AC); under 15s Elisabeth Hood (Poole AC) and Paulos Asgodom (Enfield & Haringey); under 13s Elizabeth Greenwood (Blackburn Harriers) and Hugo Milner (Derby AC); and under 11s Charlotte Lewis (St Georges VA Church Primary School) and Charlie Clark (Tonbridge AC).

Tim Hutchings, the 1984 & 1989 World Cross Country Championship silver medallist, was a welcome guest and in addition to the medals and prize money given out - which totals over £30,000 across the McCain Cross Challenge Series - Steel was presented with the Gemma Butler Bowl and Tickner with the Mike Sully Memorial Trophy for the Mike Sully Championship title.

Full results are available on the runbristol website.