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Talented teens excel in Edinburgh, Lisbon

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Teenagers Steph Twell and Charlotte Purdue – coached by Mick Woods, the Performance Coach at the UK Athletics Endurance Performance Centre at St Mary’s University Twickenham – excelled in major international meetings in Edinburgh and Lisbon over the weekend.

 

As reported over the weekend Twell, the 17-year-old European Junior Cross Country Champion, ran brilliantly to finish 10th in the Senior Women’s 6.1km race at the BUPA Great Edinburgh International IAAF Permit meeting on Saturday 13 January.

 

And 24 hours later, Purdue – her Aldershot, Farnham and District AC training mate who was too young to help Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland win the Junior Women’s Team title at last month’s European Championships – led a GB 1-2-3-4 in the Junior Women’s 3.5km race at the annual Lisbon Junior International meeting in Portugal.

 

All four ran together at the head of the field on the first of the two laps. Going into the second circuit, Purdue – fresh from her pre-Christmas victory in the Junior Women’s race at the Brussels IAAF Permit meeting – began to wind-up the pace.

 

Jess Coulson (Stockport Harriers) – who won a team gold medal at the European Championships on her GB debut – went with Purdue but Emma Pallant (also AFD) dropped off the quickening pace and Sarah Waldron (Gloucester AC) set about consolidating fourth place under pressure from the leading Portuguese runners, three of whom had run in the European Championships.

 

Purdue crossed the line in 11 minutes 52 seconds and, in a great finish, Pallant snatched second in 11:55 with Coulson given 11:56 in third place and Waldron fourth in 12:23.

 

In the Junior Men’s 6km, the Norwich Union GB quartet had a tremendous battle with their Portuguese hosts.

 

Jon Pepper (Enfield and Haringey AC) led for the first lap, after which Tiago Costa (Portugal) picked up the pace to score an impressive victory that helped to ease his disappointment of having been tripped at the start of his race at the European Championships, where he finished 56th. He was timed at 18:52.

 

Pepper, 23rd in the European Championships Junior Men’s race, stuck to his task well to finish second in 19:05, just ahead of a fantastic three-way battle for third place. Pedro Cirne (Portugal) was clocked at 19:06 with Conor McNulty (Kilkbarchan AAC) third on his GB debut in 19:07 while Ricky Stevenson (New Marske Harriers) jogged the last few steps and was given 19:12.

 

Completing the GB quartet, Ross Millington (Stockport Harriers) was eighth on his GB debut in 19:34, ahead of the fourth Portuguese representative. Both he and McNulty performed impressively in their first races at this level.

 

Yet the most impressive GB teenager of the weekend was undoubtedly Twell, who was the second home runner to finish the Senior Women’s race in Holyrood Park, which will be the venue of the 2008 IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

 

And Twell finished 10th in 24:35, 14 seconds and one place behind Liz Yelling (Bedford and County AC), but ahead of several athletes who have represented GB … Jo Wilkinson (also Bedford) was 11th in 24:47, Felicity Milton (Durham University) 13th in 24:54, Sonia Thomas (Sale Harriers Manchester) 14th in 25:03 as she mixes full-time teaching with top-class athletics, Commonwealth 1500m Champion Lisa Dobriskey (Ashford AC) 16th in 25:12 persuading herself that a race of four times her favourite distance was “basically a hard training run”, Twell’s travelling companion Susie Bush 17th in 25:30 to add immeasurably to her own street cred, Amy Waterlow (Sale Harriers Manchester) 19th in 26:01 under her new married name of Whitehead, Birhan Dagne (Belgrave Harriers) 20th in 26:12 despite a virus that has worried her for the past fortnight, Kathy Bailey (Havant AC) 21st in 26:18 and Gillian Palmer (City of Edinburgh) 22nd in 26:20 to win the Scottish Inter-District title.

 

But Twell was the story. “She is an amazingly organised and talented young lady,” said Yelling. “I’ve had a long discussion with her and she is most impressive. And I had to keep a close eye out for her all the way.”

 

Twell’s own story of the race gives an insight into her cool temperament: “I was really pleased to run sensibly and not get caught up in the emotions. I had to control my excitement and it came quite naturally.

 

“I was listening to Mick all the way and he was positive, shouting things like ‘Good girl’ and ‘You’re running well’ which helped a lot.

 

“When the pace picked up, I felt like I was still in it. I just need to get a bit stronger. I felt as if I had another gear but I couldn’t quite find it. This sort of race is going to make me stronger.

 

“There is so much to improve on. Now Mick and me can go back and say ‘This is what we’ve got to work on.’ And I now have a clear image of what it will be like to run in the Junior Women’s race at next year’s World Cross here – awesome!”

 

In the men’s race, Lebid clocked 12:20 and Farah 12:21, followed by the runner-up of the past two years Mike Skinner (Blackheath and Bromley) third in 12:25, the winner of the past two years Nick McCormick (Morpeth Harriers) fourth in 12:43, one of Farah’s house- and training-mates in Twickenham Moumin Geele (Newham and Essex Beagles) sixth in 12:48, Angus Maclean (Team Southampton) seventh in 12:51, Matt Barnes (Altrincham and District) eighth in 12:54 and Mark Pollard (City of Edinburgh) ninth also in 12:54 – all ahead of European Under 23 Cross Country Champion Barnabas Bene (Hungary) 10th in 12:59.

 

For full results from Edinburgh, please go to the Great Run website.