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taylor and u23 coulson win senior titles in liverpool

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Jess Coulson
Under-23 Jess Coulson wins the senior women's title in Liverpool

24 November 2012

Morpeth’s Jonathan Taylor (Gordon Surtees) raced to one of the biggest wins of his career with victory in today’s McCain UK Cross Challenge incorporating the European Cross Country Trials in Sefton Park, Liverpool (Saturday 24 November), while the senior women’s title went to impressive under-23 Jess Coulson (Mick Woods).

In heavy underfoot conditions, the under-23 men’s title went to Jonny Hay (Mick Woods) with the junior wins going to Mick Woods-coached duo Ian Bailey and Emelia Gorecka, all three of Aldershot, Farnham and District.

The event reports are below and provisional results are through the following link.

The Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team selection for the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Budapest, Hungary on Sunday 9 December will take place on Monday 26 November, with the team announced on Tuesday 27 November.

Senior and Under-23 Men 9.8km

Jonathan Taylor (Gordon Surtees) outclassed a strong line-up in the senior men’s race to win his first ever McCain UK Cross Challenge event in convincing fashion as he ran home 20m ahead of defending champion Andy Vernon (Nic Bideau) in second (29:59) and Steve Vernon (Dave Turnbull) in third (30:00).

It was a closely-contested race with Taylor playing safe and ensuring he was within the leading pack of a dozen runners throughout, before making his decisive move in the final kilometre.

With former champion Andy Vernon finishing strongly and Steve Vernon a constant threat, Taylor also had to deal with surges in the final third of the race from eventual fourth-place finisher Tom Humphries (30:03).

Keith Gerrard (Art Acevedo) secured the final automatic spot on the Aviva GB & NI team for Budapest in fifth (30:04), while Frank Tickner (Clive Thomas) will have to wait until Monday to see if his sixth place finish was enough to persuade the selectors to give him the one discretionary place available.

Also in competition for that place is Tom Farrell (Dave Smith), who had an impressive top ten finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in the USA last weekend in addition to posting a brilliant 13:15:31 for 5000m earlier in the summer. Farrell was unable to make the trip back to the UK for the Trial, but has requested consideration for the senior men’s team in Hungary.

The plaudits on the day went to Taylor however, who in spite of finishing 11th in this race last year, insisted that the victory was not a total shock in his eyes.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “I’m not surprised at all. I raced well in Burgos a couple of weeks ago against some really good guys, so I’m on form.”

He is now confident of producing another strong performance in Budapest in two weeks time on his current form: “I went to go there and finish right up in the mix. I’m not going there to mess about,” he said.

With the above five securing automatic selection, the final place is at the selector’s discretion when they meet on Monday.

Jonny Hay (Mick Woods), who withdrew from race one of the McCain Cross Challenge in Bristol due to a knee problem, came home as first under-23 in 10th position overall in 30:20.

“I’m a little bit surprised. I haven’t been training as much recently because I’ve got a knee injury. I’m really happy and I certainly didn’t expect to win the under-23s,” he said.

A consistent cross country performer and impressively first European in last year’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Hay is hoping to put in a strong performance in Hungary, if his knee problem allows him to make it there.

“I’ve got an appointment with the surgeon on Monday about my knee and my priority at the moment is to get that sorted. I would love to go out to Hungary and perform well out there but we’ll see what happens on Monday with my knee.”

Making up the six automatic under-23 team positions will be: Nick Goolab (30:28), Simon Horsfield (Norman Poole) in 30:45, James Wilkinson (Phil Townsend) in 30:53, Scott McDonald (Derek Easton) in 30:55 and Dewi Griffiths (Kevin Evans) in 30:56.

Senior and Under-23 Women 8.1km

At the end of the first short lap, Louise Damen (self), Emma Pallant (Mick Woods), Hannah Walker (Bud Baldaro), Caryl Jones (George Edwards) and Jess Coulson (Mick Woods) were all tightly packed within the lead group as they crossed the stream into the first of two large laps.

Out on the far side of the course Coulson, a European Cross junior team gold medallist in 2006, then took the lead ahead of Beth Potter (Mick Woods) and Walker - all under-23 women - although the lead was switching continuously between the trio as a clear group of eight, also including Hannah Brooks (Bud Baldaro) and Durham’s Rosie Smith, came into site in the main section of the course.

Going into the second large lap, Coulson and Walker were around six seconds clear from Pallant who was clear in third, but Pallant only briefly held onto that position before Damen moved back into third place as they approached the stream for the final time.

On the final lap, Coulson had built a lead of around five seconds from Walker in second, with a greater gap back to Damen in third, and an even more significant gap back to the chasing group of Jones, Smith and Potter.

Coulson looked strong into the finish straight and took the overall win in 27:41 as she led an under-23 one-two from Walker (27:48), with Damen finishing third - but first senior woman - in 27:55.

“I wanted to sit in and play it safe to ensure I made the top six under-23s,” said Coulson who was an impressive third in the recent IX Cross de Atapuerca in Burgos, Spain. “I knew it would be tense so when I took the lead I tried to test Hannah a bit and I felt quite comfortable.

“I’ve run well on the road but not always so well in the mud so I’m, really happy. It’s all thanks to my coach Mick Woods who has set all my training and really motivated me, and so have my family.

“Once I took the lead I didn’t look back once; I just went for it and now I’m looking forward to the European Cross.”

First senior Damen, the 2010 Trials winner and a European Cross team silver medallist that same year, said: “I’m no spring chicken, it’s ten years since I won my first senior GB vest, so I’m really pleased.

“The under-23 girls are so strong and it’s great to see them step up. When I found myself at the front it was unintentional and I decided to pull back a bit. I didn’t feel too good on the second lap and got a bit detached but on the final lap I knew I had to use my marathon strength and I felt good.”

Behind Coulson and Walker, the other four under-23 automatic selection spots for the Aviva GB & NI team went to Potter (28:17), Lily Partridge (Mick Woods) in 28:29, Lauren Howarth (Bud Baldaro) in 28:42, and Hannah Alderson (Alan Thomas) in 29:36.

Behind Damen - and only the top five are guaranteed selection in the senior Trial -Jones (28:15), Smith (28:20), Elle Baker (Dave Turnbull) in 28:31 and Katrina Wootton (Harvey Rose) in 28:38 will also make it to Hungary with the final place at the selector’s discretion.

Junior Men 6.7km

Ian Bailey (Mick Woods) came from behind to take the junior men’s race in 20:50 with a superb final few kilometres to book his place in Budapest next month, with Charlie Grice (Jon Bigg) and Charlie Hulson (Paul Roden) finishing second (20:53) and third (20:55) respectively.

Bailey, runner up in the McCain UK Cross Challenge Final and Inter Counties in March, slightly surprised himself with how well he ran.

“I’m speechless. I came here hopeful of winning but my aim was really to get in the top six.”

Trailing a front running trio of Jonathan Davies (Rob McKim) - who eventually missed out on a top six finish in seventh - Luke Traynor (Dudley Walker) and US-based Kieran Clements at the halfway stage, the Aldershot, Farnham and District athlete paced his surge perfectly and with one kilometre to go, he had cut down Hulson’s lead, that at one point was around 30m, and he didn’t look back from there.

“In the second half I started to come through,” he said. “I managed to kick and get up to the leading group and then I felt good enough to kick on from there. I’m hoping I can take this form into the Europeans.”

Making up the automatic selection positions for the Aviva GB & NI junior team, Clements, one of the only athletes to return from America for the Trials, finished fourth in 21:00, Traynor was fifth in 21:02 and Stroud & District’s William Paulson (Chris Frapwell) was sixth in 21:05.

Junior Women/under-17 combined 4.4km

There was very little to separate the leaders in the early stages, with a large group of around 20 moving into the final lap together including defending champion Emelia Gorecka (Mick Woods), Spenborough’s Jenny Walsh (Deborah Rowlands), Bobby Clay (James Roberts) - the winner of the combined under-17/20 race  in Bristol but too young according to IAAF age group rules to be considered for European Cross selection - her sister Alex Clay (Peter Mullervy) and Jessica Judd (Rob Denmark), the McCain Bristol under-20 winner.

Behind that group, the field was well strung out.

European Junior Cross Country Champion Gorecka made a break at the far side of the course on the final long lap, but she was closely followed by Walsh and Judd as they came back into sight in the main section of the park.

Her lead of five seconds soon appeared vulnerable as Walsh chased hard into the penultimate straight and closed the gap to almost nothing, but Gorecka took the win in 15:18 from Walsh who was credited with the same time (15:18), with Judd in third (15:28).

“I pulled away on the back loop but it was hard to make a decisive move,” said Gorecka, IAAF World Junior 3000m bronze medallist. “In fact, it wasn’t so much a break, but more of a small move forward! It was hard to get clear, it was so muddy, but we were all in the same position.

“This age group has got a lot stronger and it was good to have a tough competition out there. It’s all looking positive for a couple of week’s time at the European Cross and I’m really happy with that.”

Walsh - an IAAF World Juniors 1500m finalist this summer - was delighted with her performance in second: “I obviously came here hoping to make the team but to finish so close to Emelia is brilliant and gives me so much confidence.”

The remaining automatic qualifying spots for the Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team for the European Cross Country Championships went to Annabel Mason (15:37) in fourth, Rhona Auckland (Joyce Hogg) in fifth (15:41) and Alex Clay (Peter Mullervy) in sixth (15:44).

All "automatic" selections are based on selection policy - final approval lies with the selectors.

Elsewhere...

The age group races were won by Bobby Clay (Invicta East Kent) and Jac Hopkins (Swansea Harriers) in the under-17 category (4.4km women/5.5km men), both winners in Bristol and making it two wins from two outings in the McCain Cross Challenge Series; Harriet Knowles-Jones (Warrington AC) and Josh Kerr (Edinburgh AC) in the under-15 event (3km); Khahisa Mhlanga (Chelmsford AC) and Ryan Gray (Inverclyde AC) - who in taking victory defeated the respective girls and boys round one winners from Bristol - in the under-13 category (3km); and Katie Miller (Liverpool Harriers) and Sam Evans (Warrington AC) in the under-11 event (1.9km).

Full results (provisional) are through the following link, plus spot yourself in our highlights video on www.youtube.com/ukatvofficial which will be available two days after the event.

The Series continues at the McCain Antrim Cross Challenge on 12 January 2013, followed Cardiff on 20 January 2013 and concluding with the McCain UK Cross Challenge Final and UK Inter Counties, incorporating the IAAF World Cross Country Trials, on Saturday 9 March 2013.

For full details, including the breakdown of prize money which exceeds £30,000 in total, check out the McCain Cross Challenge section on the UKA website and select ‘prize fund’.

To view the UKA selection policies for the 2012/13 cross country season, follow the link.