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UK Cross Challenge Belfast – preview updated

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2 January 2008

 

Former European Cross Country Champion Hayley Yelling (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow AC) will aim for her third successive UK Cross Challenge victory of the season at the Belfast International, sponsored by Mizuno, on Saturday.

 

Yelling - who followed her victories in Gateshead and Liverpool by helping the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team to win the senior women’s silver medals at last month’s SPAR European Cross Country Championships - will line-up at Stormont Estate in a field that includes outstanding 18-year-old Stephanie Twell (Aldershot, Farnham and District AC).

 

Twell, the first female to win two European Junior cross country titles – and young enough to bid to complete a hat-trick next winter – is racing the senior women at both Belfast and the Great North Cross Country in Edinburgh the following Saturday. They are part of her preparations for the Junior Women’ race at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships to be staged at the same Edinburgh venue in March.

 

Having finished second to Yelling at Gateshead, Twell will be seeking a top-six finish in a Belfast field that also includes GB internationals Gemma Miles (Kendal AC), Freya Murray (Chester-le-Street AC), mountain running star Victoria Wilkinson (Bingley Harriers) and an England team comprising a trio who showed fine form at Liverpool – Carly Needham (Rochdale Harriers), Juliet Potter (Charnwood AC) and Sonia Thomas (Sale Harriers Manchester).

 

The England men’s team has been hit by an injury to Phil Nicholls (Tipton Harriers), who ran a 10-mile personal best of 48 minutes 21 seconds – the second-fastest by a UK athlete in 2007 – on the day he had hoped to be racing for GB at the Euro Cross in Toro. Nicholls, reserve for Toro after finishing eighth in the trial at Liverpool, said of his victory at Bloxwich: “It wasn’t where I wanted to race that day. I would have given anything to be in Spain. But the PB exorcised a few demons.” Now another demon has struck in the shape of an Achilles injury that has laid him low for two weeks. “Fingers crossed I can get back for the World Trial,” says the resilient UK 10,000m Champion.

 

Of the England team in Belfast, Mark Hood (Sunderland Harriers) and Matt Watson (Bingley Harriers) will be making their international debuts after impressing team manager Eamonn Martin at Liverpool. They will be joined by the experienced and consistent Michael Skinner (Blackheath and Bromley Harriers), now a regular in the GB cross country team. Among the domestic rivals is Antony Ford (Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde AC), who warmed-up impressively by winning the Ribble Valley 10km last weekend.

 

As ever, the full range of age group races will give talented and ambitious teenagers from both sides of the Irish Sea the opportunity to test their fitness before this winter’s major championships.

 

Mitch Goose (City of Norwich AC) will be seeking to establish a lead in the UK Cross Challenge Under 20 Men’s rankings after his medal-winning debut with the GB Junior Men’s Team in Toro; Blue Haywood (Lincoln Wellington AC), the current UK Cross Challenge Under 17 Women’s leader, steps up to the Under 20s’ race and will face the reigning UK Cross Challenge Under 17 Champion Heather Timmins (Warrington AC); the Under 17 Men’s field includes the current leading two in the series rankings, Chris O’Hare (Edinburgh AC) and James Robinson (West Norfolk AC); Liverpool runner-up Thomas Curr (Stroud and District AC) is among the Under 15s for whom distance is no obstruction to priceless experience; and Scot Kathryn Gillespie (Central AAC) will be seeking to stay top of the Under 13 girls’ rankings.

 

For the full timetable, please visit

http://www.athletics-uk.info/uka/ukxc/venues/belfast.asp