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McCain Bristol cross challenge

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Caryl Jones
Caryl Jones en route to senior women's victory in Bristol

28 October 2012

The McCain Bristol Cross Challenge - staged by runbristol in partnership with Bristol & West AC and UKA - kicked off the 2012 McCain UK Cross Challenge Series at Ashton Court today (Sunday 28 October) with senior victories for Caryl Jones (George Edwards) and Dewi Griffiths (Kevin Evans), both Swansea AC, and under-20 wins for Jessica Judd (Rob Denmark) and Jack Gray (Nick Price).

Rain held off until the senior men’s finale, but the tough, undulating course, although not boggy, became heavy in places over the course of the afternoon.

Senior Women: 6.34km

Caryl Jones (George Edwards), who won her first Great Britain vest at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships earlier this month, was dominant throughout as she raced to victory in the senior women’s race.

Jones, a real success story on the roads in particular in 2012, was keen to translate that form into the cross country season and did that without doubt as she won by 16 seconds in 25:58 from second-placed Hannah Brooks (Bud Baldaro) in 26:14, who closed marginally in the latter stages, and Sarah Treacy (also Baldaro) in third (26:25).

“I didn’t want to break so early, but I had a nice rhythm and it felt like a good racing pace,” said the Swansea Harrier who led from the gun and had a lead of almost 120m with just over one lap to go.

“I’m training harder than I did, and I guess it’s paying off. It wasn’t mentally hard for me (leading throughout), but I was wary how far behind the other girls were. Liverpool’s my next big one and I’m totally focused on that now.”

Assuming she stays healthy, Jones has a realistic chance of making the GB & NI team for December’s European Cross Country Championships in Budapest, Hungary, with the Trial incorporated into round two of the McCain Cross Challenge in Liverpool on Saturday 24 November.

Senior Men: 8.29km

There wasn’t much to split the senior men in the early stages with eventual podium trio Dewi Griffiths, Biniam Ande (Dave Lawrence) and Frank Tickner (Clive Thomas) amongst those in the leading group as they completed the first of four laps.

As they moved into lap three Steve Mitchell (Keith Brackstone) had fallen off the back of the pack and Matt O’Dowd led the chasing group, but as the leaders pushed on into the fourth and final lap it was an apparent battle between Griffiths and Ande, with Griffiths eventually pulling clear to take the win in 29:44, Ande second in 29:53.

Tickner, who looked out of it, came racing back to be credited with the same time as Ande, but took third.

“I was racing well in the summer and I set a PB over 5k,” said Griffiths.

“I was hoping for a good half marathon but it didn’t happen, but I knew I had a good race in me and I’m happy with that. It’s my biggest senior win and a big confidence boost going into Liverpool, which until now has been a bit of a bogie race for me.

“Biniam put in a burst up the hill (as they passed by the finish for the last time) but I was saving something for the last hill; I took the lead sooner than that though, and when I looked back I had around 30m, so I knew I had it.”

Under-17/Under-20 Women (combined): 4.39km

There was little to split the main contenders in the early stages of the race, and as they completed their first lap, there were still six in the mix.

Moving into the final lap of two, under-20 Jessica Judd (Rob Denmark) had established a good lead ahead of talented under-17 sisters Bobby (James Roberts) and Alex Clay (Peter Mullervy) of Invicta East Kent AC, while in fourth, Rebecca Weston (James Roberts), also of Invicta East Kent, was chasing hard.

Judd’s lead was soon lost however, as Bobby Clay started to close and eventually pulled her in on the final uphill section of the course.

“I didn’t expect that but I’m really pleased,” said Clay, who won the race in 17:29. “I’m not that experienced, so I took the first lap to watch and the second to really race it.

“It was nice to be out there with my sister, it was comforting and I wasn’t nervous.

“I was coming up the hill past the finish with Jess in the lead and I felt really weak and she looked so strong, but the gap was closing down and I could hear my mum shouting “come on, you’ve got to push.” Once I passed her I didn’t look back.”

Judd, an automatic selection who opted out of the European Cross in 2011 but hopes to make the team this time around, took the under-20 honours in second overall (17:35): “I am disappointed, but I gave it my all. I’ve only been working with my coach (Rob Denmark) for six weeks and we’re working at getting better at cross country. Bobby (Clay) ran a good race today.

“We’ve been making a lot of changes and I’m happy with how things have been going; I’ve got the enjoyment back in my running and I’m really loving it.

“I wanted to come out today and see what I could do and figure out exactly what I need to do. I’m doing more endurance now and I felt great for the first three-quarters, I just need to build my endurance and get back to winning.”

Alex Clay took third overall, second under-17, in 17:39.

Under-20 Men

Jack Gray, a fourth place finisher as an under-20 in the English National and Inter-Counties in 2010, returned to cross country racing in style with an impressive victory in 23:22 following a serious operation for MALS (Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome) in February which kept him in hospital for a week and a half.

He took the lead around half way from Reading’s Jonathan Davies (eventually second in 23:30), William Gray and James McMurray and didn’t look back.

“With about 1500m to go I had a stitch come on, which was probably related to my operation. In the end I was really just working hard against the pain rather than against my legs.

“I’d liked to have had a bigger lead but I had to work hard against the pain. My aim now is to make the team for the European Cross, but it’s a good competition in this age group and that was a good race. I enjoyed the relatively slow start; it was a good first race of the season and it’s good to be back.”

Gray took third in 23:38.

Elsewhere...

The age group races were won by Bobby Clay (as noted in combined race report) and Jac Hopkins (Swansea Harriers) in the under-17 category; Harriet Knowles-Jones and Daniel Evans in a Warrington double in the under-15 event; Katy-Ann McDonald (Herne Hill Harriers) and Matthew Rawlings (Reading AC) in the under-13 category; and Elena Sidman (Wells Cathedral Junior) and Rory Howorth (Team Bath AC) in the under-11 event. 

Full results are here, 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 Liverpool Cross Challenge, which incorporates the European Cross Country Trials, on Saturday 24 November, followed by Antrim on 12 January 2013, 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.