Category: Cross Country

Gallantly though she fought, that turned out a joust British sensation Holly Bleasdale couldn’t win again an imperious Yelena Isinbayeva fashioned out of her golden past as the Russian rocketed high into her own rarefied sphere over 5m and beyond reach.

Yelena Isinbayeva rises over a new world indoor record of 5.01m to dominate the women’s pole vault, with Holly Bleasdale a battling runner-up at 4.72m

Remarkably enough, the double Olympic champion took very much two and a half years to register a new entry into the world record books, a mighty second-time 5.01m, whereas she would set new milestones with a frequency reminiscent of great Michael Phelps in swimming only a few years ago, but that one may have been the one she has celebrated more wildly than any other in her career.

Maybe it wasn’t so much for the particular world record itself, or the win come to that, but more of confirming to herself that she has still got the touch and the magic to make things happen. As Steve Cram says, there is a finite peak spell of four-five years in any athlete’s career while afterwards one can still perform at high level but with the performance graph on a gradual decline.

So has ‘Isi’ returned to her very best and can she rebuild her fallen empire around her? That remains to be seen. Let’s not forget that her previous world record, the current outdoor mark of 5.06m, was set only days after non-heighting at the World Championships in Berlin 2009 so the next challenge for her will be to lay her demons to rest and mount a major podium for the first time since Beijing.

Bleasdale did pose questions on her, though, as she was the first to rise clear of 4.72m at the first time of asking and gain an edge, having put away the opening 4.52m earlier, where Isinbayeva needed a second effort to follow through, with Cuban Yarisley Silva grinding out a third-time clearance to remain alive in the contest.

The next height was to prove the turning-point, nevertheless, as the Russian sailed impressively over a SB of 4.82m first time out to turn things round and eventually claim the win as neither of her rivals could muster a response in their remaining attempts.

From there on, it came a matter of how high she could reach on the day and had to dig deep to turn equal to a world-leading 4.92m at the death before raising the bar further to that magical 5.01m, which she overcame in total elation.

Bleasdale was pleased to come runner-up out of such a high-calibre field and range again in the 4.70m territory, still tuning her gear in the background, while earning the scalps of Silva and former world champion Anna Rogowska (POL) – again – will provide a further mental boost before gunning for a medal and glory in Istanbul.

Joe Thomas turns on a searing last 200m to come fourth out of nowhere in a high class 800m won by sensational U20 Mohammed Aman

A stacked men’s 800m was shaping up to form until red-hot favourite Adam Kszczot suddenly ran out of legs around 120m out, having asserted himself at the top of the race, to go floundering along and chasing youngster Mohammed Amman (ETH), the ‘David’ who committed mighty David Rudisha to mortality last summer, pounced on the opening to surge round and away to a convincing victory in a fast 1:45.84, a superb follow-up to his Birmingham marginal winning.

Fellow Pole Marcin Lewandowski edged out Yuriy Borzakowski in the battle for the minor podium places in 1:46.02 to 1:46.19 as they swept past a hepless Kszczot and there emerged out of virtually nowhere a storming Joe Thomas to grab fourth and nearly catch the Russian former Olympic champion in a narrow PB of 1:46.33 in a surreal finish in the dying stages.

In fact, the young Welshman was in no man’s land and isolated deep at the back of a long strung-out field of seven even with 160m to go when he suddenly snapped out of there beyond Musaeb Balla (QAT) to blast round the track and Boaz Laland (KEN), despite having to move as wide as lane three, and come home like an express train.

“What might have been..” may have crossed his mind across the finish line and the blatant truth was that he could have even won that high-calibre affair had he gone earlier or been better positioned towards the bell. But maybe he wasn’t fully aware of his own form and was surprised himself by the force of his finish in the end.

At any rate, he does know where he is lying now, suggesting a time in the low 1:45 region is well on the cards, and he could turn a real menace when he steps on the track up against the top names in Istanbul. Britain haven’t won a medal since Tom McKean‘s golden display way back in 1993 but that drought could be about to end.

Andie Osagie was slightly disappointed to come second to Timothy Kitum in 1:47.14 to 1:46.81 in the B race but the 17-year-old Kenyan is no slouch by any means holding the fifth fastest time in the world with 1:45.96 (indoor best). The Briton, eighth in the global lists on 1:46.53, is a fierce finisher himself and could be well suited to the anticipated more tactical rounds in Turkey to do plenty of damage.

Kirani James nonchalantly stamps his authority on the men’s 400m in 45.52 secs

Veteran Yamile Aldama was another Brit to illustrate her podium credentials as she landed at a big SB and UKL of 14.44m in the second round to earn a sound third spot narrowly behind top Cuban Yargelis Savigne, second at 14.47m, while Ukrainian Olha Saladuha came away with a comprehensive win way out front at a new national indoor record of 14.79m, erasing outdoor world record holder Inesa Kravets‘s previous mark of 14.67m.

Aldama is no stranger to claiming medals at top level indoors having won two silvers and a bronze at World Championships in the past, spanning 1999 to 2006, and she looks to be hitting form at the right time by moving seventh in the global season’s charts.

By stark contrast, JJ Jegede‘s last-gasp bid for selection in the long jump met with misfortune as he tore his hamstring on his very opening attempt and had to pull out of the rest of the competition, nicked by local man Michel Torneus marginally shy of 8m at 7.99m (SB) as a mere centimetre separated the top three.

The Briton was on a high following his surprise win at the AVIVA Grand Prix and was looking to carve out a further 11cm on his equal PB of 8.04m to make the cut but it wasn’t meant to be. Hopefully, his injury won’t get in the way of his preparations for the Olympics in summer as he has shown potential to put in a good show there.

Helen Clitheroe got the quality sharpener she was looking for and a proper tonic after a below par display over 3000m in the Brum in a UK-leading 4:09.70 for sixth in a close order women’s 1500m where Moroccan Btissam Lakhouad squeezed out a narrow victory over U20 Ethiopian Tizita Bogale in 4:07.86 (iPB) to 4:07.88, with Morgan Uceny (USA) third slightly behind in 4:08.06 (SB).

New Jamaican big gun Patricia Hall convincingly conquered the women’s 400m heat in 51.66 secs (indoor best) ahead of top Russian campaigner Antonina Krivoshapka, 51.81 secs, to raise her profile further while Shana Cox made rather heavy going round the tight bends of the four-lane track to post 53.48 secs ahead of U23 Emily Diamond (54.08) in a nearly all-British secondary run.

In the men’s equivalent, Grenadian teenage sensation Kirani James weathered the early storm of old-hand Chris Brown in the first 200m to pour on the pace round the second lap to a commanding victory in 45.52 secs, the latter holding on to runner-up in 46.62, to underline his red-hot favourite rank to add the global indoor title to his credit.

Anna Chicherova clears 2m for a multiple time this season

World champion Anna Chicherova (RUS) kept on a rampage in the women’s high jump to maintain a clean sheet of 2m clearances or over through the season, making it five out of five outings this winter, which she ought to round off in style in Istanbul all things equal for a most daunting string.

If the men’s keenly anticipated 60m hurdles turned a let-down, Xiang Liu crashing out on a shock false-start and Dayron Robles still struggling to assert himself over a second-string line-up in 7.66 secs, the 3000m was brimming with top quality and pace as U20 Kenyan marvel Ismail Kirui saw off the challenge of Dejen Gebremeskiel (ETH) in 7:33.55 against 7:34.14 (PB) in an enthralling battle.

Augustine Choge was not far off behind in a swift 7:34.74 for third, Caleb Ndiku was fourth in 7:35.42, Thomas Longosiwa fifth in 7:37.07, all Kenyans, and Tariku Bekele mustered just sixth in 7:37.96 as an eight-strong group of runners ducked under 7:40 for a striking depth in the event.



The competitive weekend is well into motion and the women’s pole vault has, as expected, dominated attention on Saturday from a British point of view as burgeoning new star Holly Bleasdale sneaked a narrow second win in as many winter outings in France while Sally Peake got her season off over a new Welsh indoor record up in Manchester.

European champion Jessica Ennis made a low-key inaugural showing this term in the shot at the Northern Athletics Championships in Sheffield while Andrew Robertson burst off to a UK-leading and equal PB of 6.68 secs in the 60m in Birmingham.

Meeting Capitale Perche, Clermont Ferrand, France

Holly Bleasdale may have not been as impressive on her return to France but she still pipped local girl Vanessa Boslak on countback at 4.52m, going over at the second time, to maintain her unbeaten early streak while her overall display itself was solid at this particular stage of the winter. But such are the heights she has rocketed to that marks in this region hardly earn her headlines anymore!

The European U23 champion made her entrance considerably higher with a first-time clearance at 4.33m, compared to just 4.21m en route to her UK record of 4.71m in Orleans, to  move on straight to her winning height before bowing out after three failures at 4.62m.

Incidentally, home nation record holder Boslak, boasting a PB of 4.70m, was again runner-up to Bleasdale on that previous occasion but comprehensively beaten at 4.51m, sneaking a SB today.

Third, fresh from a UK U20 record a week ago today, was Julien Raffalli’s new hot prospect Katie Byres on 4.33m at the third attempt, her second highest ever, to show that she is quickly settling in that region.

On the men’s side, Andrew Sutcliffe vaulted over a substantial SB of 5.33m to share top spot with Spaniard Manuel Conception in the men’s B competition, both displaying an identical card. That translates as his third best figure ever and augurs well for his ambitions into the main season.



Vault Manchester, Sportcity, Manchester

Sally Peake set an indoor Welsh record of 4.33m up at the Manchester Vault to go third in the UK lists this indoor term and enter the fray in promising manner, failing

Training alongside Britain’s No 2 Kate Dennison under Scott Simpson, she also holds the outright Welsh record at 4.35m from last summer and looks to set herself up nicely towards a bid for the A Olympic standard further down the way. As things turn, Britain could well see three women pole vaulters competing in London and it’s going to be interesting to see whether their male counterparts follow in their footsteps.

Bryone Raine was second at also a season starter of 4.13m, just 3cm below her PB from last summer, on countback from Zoe Brown, who climbed up by an identical amount on last weekend. Further below, Sally Scott was inducted into the U23 age group by way of a 4.03m mark and World Youth bronze medallist Lucy Bryan opened up with 3.83m, but Scottish record holder Henrietta Paxton must have been disappointed to leave the competition with only 3.73m to her credit.

On the men’s side, Commonwealth bronze medallist Max Eaves comfortably prevailed with a 5.23m clearance to place a good 20cm up on second-slotted U23 Gregor McLean, U20 Jax Thoirs (U20 Scottish indoor record) and Alasdair Strange who came all level at 5.03m.



Texas 10 Team Invitational, College Station, Texas, USA

Tyrone Edgar feels he is getting back to his best, injury-free after quite a while, and his first sample of a decent 6.76 secs to win the Olympic Development section over 60m at the Texan meet pointed to that direction. For that matter, that was his first indoor race since 2009 while his next outing looks to come in Houston late in the month.

Lorraine Ugen occupied second in the long jump with a last-gasp best of 6.12m on the day.

The most notable moment of the meet came in the women’s Olympic Development 60m where rising American prospect Jessica Young pipped Muna Lee on the line by a mere hundredth of a second, setting 7.31 and 7.32 secs respectively, while Charles Silmon won in 6.66 secs in the scoring men’s 60m final.



Northern Championships, Sheffield, Day I

Jessica Ennis, a major gold medal hope in London for Britain, might have left the arena slightly disappointed as her final-effort of 13.95m starting-point in the shot this term fared down on her respective opener of 14.11m at the same meet a year ago tomorrow. All the same, that was still a solid start amidst a heavy training schedule for the European heptathlon champion.

Her series were 13.46, 13.28, 13.03, 13.69, 13.86, 13.95 stepping up her throwing in the second half of the competition.

Highly tipped hurdler Yasmin Miller, just 16, caught the eye as she initiated her own campaign in a huge PB of 7.53 secs over the flat 60m, having also posted an intermediate best of 7.61 in the heats, and made a double of wins over the sticks in 8.69 secs.

Come to that, she convincingly got the better of multi-event top U20 prospect Katarina Johnson-Thompson over the flat distance although the Merseysider could be nonetheless pleased to have started off to a PB of 7.70 secs herself.

Kirsten McAslan, coached by Trevor Painter, tore round to an indoor PB of 54.35 secs from the outset, doubling as a championships record, which was not far off her absolute topper of 53.98 secs from last summer where Louise Bloor sped to a big PB of 7.46 secs in the heats, backing it up with a 7.48 secs later in the final.

U23 Annabelle Lewis was second in that one in 7.53 secs.

In a very competitive U20 Men’s 400m, precocious Clovis Asong edged top place just outside his fastest indoors in 48.43 secs ahead of Luke South (48.53) and Alex Boyce (48,71) dusting off some winter training cobwebs.



Midland Counties Open, Birmingham, Day I

Andrew Robertson wasted no time to get his game going this term as he swept to a straight equal PB of 6.68 secs in the men’s 60m, ‘warming up’ to a 6.71 secs in the first round, to replace Greg Cackett at the top of the UK charts.

The self-coached sprinter, an awesome starter, will be eager to cash in on his European U23 100m bronze into a relay contender for London but he will definitely have to work a great deal on his last 20m into the race, which was evidently suffering last summer.

Rion Pierre, the European U23 100m bronze medallist of 2009, came home second some way behind in 6.74 secs, having set a more promising 6.72 secs in the opening round though, while hurdler Gianni Frankis put in some more good speedwork by way of a brace of 6.95 secs trips down the straight to equal his week-old PB twice.

In the women’s version, Laura Turner ran the two fastest times in Britain this season starting with a 7.43 secs in the early flight and following up into a slightly faster 7.41 secs later on the day, way ahead of the opposition including Kadi-Ann Thomas. The latter looked still a long way from her best in third in 7.71 secs though a familiar slow starter.

400m girl Nadine Okyere posted a PB of 7.87 secs by the way backed up by her second fastest ever 7.90 secs in the following run for an encouraging start.

There was also good news from Beijing finalist Sarah Claxton who improved her SB substantially to 8.25 secs and attested her early form with a second run in that province in 8.27 secs, with former European indoor finalist Sarah McGreavy posting 8.53 secs.



McCain Cardiff Cross Challenge, Cardiff

Dab country hand Frank Tickner has seen off Jonny Hay, who sent shockwaves around in Edinburgh last weekend, to defend his title over the roughly 10km course in Cardiff through a solid six seconds although it may have been a distance too far yet for the youngster.

Results (Top 4)

Senior Men: 1,Frank Tickner 32.10, 2.Jonny Hay (U23) 32.16, 3,Adam Hickey 32.23, 4,Ashley Harrell 32.33

Senior Women:1.Lauren Howarth (U23) 24:18, 2.Caryl Jones 24:35, 3.Katrina Wooton 24:49, 4.Naomi Taschimowitz 24:53

U20 Men: 1.Harvey Dixon 25:16, 2.Ian Bailey 25.32, 3.Zak Seddon 25.44, 4.Joshua Grace 25:45

U20 Women: 1.Annabel Gummow 16.35, 2.Jennifer Walsh 16.46, 3.Jess Chen 17.27, 4.Abbie Hetherington 17.33


SEAA Championships incorporating U17/U15 Pentathlon Championships, Lee Valley

The high jumpers look to have taken the bit between their teeth and set out to make their point as Samson Oni followed up on Robbie Grabarz‘s impressive premiere the previous weekend to get off over a straight best ever season opener of 2.26m in the high jump.

By the way of things, there could be at least three contenders vying for places on the British team to the World Indoor Championships and the 31-year-old has already drawn into the mix and within shouting distance of the qualifying standard (2.29).

Louis Persent, the European U20 bronze medallist in 2009, ran 48.65 secs in the semifiinals of the men’s 400m but didn’t show up in the final later while 17-year-old hurdler Hayley McLean, sixth at the World Youth Championships last summer, was off to a straight indoor best of 57.58 secs, a mere 0.03 secs shy of her total PB.



Midland Counties Open, Birmingham, Day II

Robbie Grabarz may have not matched the heights of the previous weekend, sailing over a world indoor qualifier of 2.29m, but still managed a respectable level of 2.24m in the high jump to easily remain on a winning note into the new year, with semi-returned former European U23 champion Ben Challenger at 2.05m.

Former World Youth champion Ben Williams put in a triple jump opener of 15.28m while Adele Lassu nicked top place on countback at 1.80m from Isobel Pooley in the women’s high jump. As the main interest revolved around the jumps, U20 Naomi Reid won the age group competition at 12.13m.



Northern Championships, Sheffield, Day II

Former European U23 silver medallist Luke Cutts delayed his outing by a day, down for the Vault Manchester on Saturday, but eventually turned up in Sheffield to coast to an easy win at 5.20m, the same as nearly a month ago at Sportcity.

UK Trials runner-up JJ Jegede edged out comeback man Chris Kirk in the long jump, reaching 7.44 to 7.32m respectively, as Nadia Williams worked her way to a clear win in the triple jump with 13.11m after some early pressure from Yasmine Regis (12.79m).

Fourth in the same competition was no-event-regular Katarina Johnson-Thompson who never fails to show potential in yet another quarter and landed at a total PB of 12.56m, her second in as many line-ups during the weekend.



Chevron Houston Marathon, Texas, US

Holly Rush agonizingly missed her three-year-old PB by a mere three seconds in running 2h37:38 for an overall 38th in the streets of the Texan capital, falling short of the Olympic B standard in the process.


(More later on…)

Men’s Invitational 3000m

The ‘Mad Season’, as Gary Neville dubbed the current run in the English Premiership, rubbed off on the top drawer of the day at Hollyrood Park as the race unfolded totally against the form books or the complexion of the field, with the eagerly anticipated clash between three reigning Olympic and a former world champions never taking shape.

Great Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) turned up a mere ghost of himself as he floundered on the hilly muddy course and sunk deep into the field, a stark contrast to his pre-race statements, to raise far more questions over his fitness than he would have hoped to answer while Brimin Kipruto Kiprop (KEN) also languished thereabouts for an entirely anonymous outing, knocking plenty of the gloss off the affair.

On the far end up front, rising distance prospect Jonny Hay, on the back of a disappointing 8th in the U20s in Velenje at that, came to perform beyond his wildest dreams as he turned on a finishing kick that even his illustrious rivals would have envied for an astonishing runner-up, on a rare occasion to dare outshine his female groupmates in Mick Woods’s squad.

Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) showed some early purpose to assert himself but was never really convincing at the top and it was Ross Millington, the European U23 5000m silver medallist, to scent the opening and take his chance to burst to the front and quickly carve out a solid gap up front, driving hard round the second kilometre.

Reading the situation at a glance, Asbel Kiprop (KEN), the reigning Olympic and world 1500m champion, swiftly emerged in the hole between the Briton and the stretched out chasing pack to gain a hold on the race, his rangy figure striding beautifully along, and breezed past into the lead with aplomb as soon as the race entered its crucial final third.

The Kenyan was now in full flight and control to swiftly fashion plenty of daylight behind him and kept pulling away round the last lap, occasionally checking behind, to a commanding victory and a grand premiere in his campaign to defend his Olympic crown, an eventual winning margin of 5 secs in a time of 9:20, while Kipchoge and Spaniard Juan Carlos Higuero clawed their way back and round a tiring Millington in an effective scramble for the minor podium spots.

Hay hadn’t shown much until very late when he moved into fourth past former race winner Ricky Stevenson, who had figured in the top five meantime, but even at 200m out was looking way out of a top three finish. Yet, he somehow conjured up a nearly surreal turn of gear off the last hill to storm past startled both Kipchoge and Higuero over the final several strides and snatch second in 9:25 in a memorable breakthrough performance.

The youngster had every reason to float on cloud nine after the race and he will be brimming with confidence and excitement looking ahead at a season that could hold so much in store for him, even alluding to a crack at an Olympic berth. On that evidence, he could go a long way towards that end!

Kipchoge held off Higuero to grab third in an identical time a second behind (9:26) to save the day where Stevenson consolidated a return to form a further four seconds adrift in 9:30 and a plucky Millington had to do with sixth finally in 9:34.

But there was no screen of mist or smoke to conceal the embarrassment of a deflated Bekele who dragged home way down the order in 11th in 9:42, Kipruto just a stride behind in the same time, and the great Ethiopian looks as though he has got an awful lot to do to haul back into contention for gold in the remaining months leading up to London.


1.Asbel Kiprop (KEN) 9:20, 2.Jonny Hay (U23) 9:25, 3.Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) 9:26, 4.Juan Carlos Higuero (ESP) 9:26, 5.Ricky Stevenson 9:30, 6.Ross Millington 9:34, 7.Callum Hawkins (U23) 9:39, 8.Arturo Casado (ESP) 9:40, 9.Steve Vernon 9:41, …, 11.Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) 9:42, 12.Brimin Kipruto (KEN) 9:42, …, 15.Tony Whiteman (V40) 10:08, 17.Adam Cotton (U23) 10:21


Senior Men’s 8km

European cross-country champion Atelaw Bekele‘s aggressive front-run tactics did not take the field by surprise, like they worked in Velenje, and Ayam Landassem clawed his way quickly back after a familiar early burst by the Belgian, with compatriot Javier Guerra and American John Grey briefly joining up.

The Spaniard tucked alongside nicely and only struck out for home in the late stages for an eventual convincing win by three seconds in 25:44 as another American, Bobby Mack, followed on through to snatch second at the end.

The Brits looked more content with team tactics, rewarded with the win in the end, and Frank Tickner showed late to edge into the top five past a tiring Guerra in 25:55. Steve Vernon, in his first race of two on the day, was back in seventh in 26 mins dead followed by Tom Humphries a further spot behind.


1.Ayam Lamdassem (ESP) 25.44, 2.Bobby Mack (USA) 25:47, 3.Atelaw Bekele (BEL) 25:47, 4.John Grey (USA) 25:52, 5.Frank Tickner 25:55, 6.Javier Guerra (ESP) 26:00, 7.Steve Vernon 26:00, 8.Tom Humphries 26:07, 10.Jonny Taylor 26:13, 16.James Walsh 26:45, 17.James Wilkinson (U23) 26:48, 18.Derek Hawkins (U23) 26:50

Teams: 1.EUR 44, 2.GBR 58, 3.USA 76


Senior Women’s 6km

1.Fionnuala Briton (IRL) 21:32, 2.Gemma Steel 21:52, 3.Elle Baker 22:08, 4.Neely Spence (USA) 22:11, 5.Freya Murray 22:17, 6.Hattie Dean 22:27, …, 8.Hannah Walker 22:29, 9.Steph Twell 22:33, 13.Naomi Taschimowitz 22:53, 18.Rosie Smith 23:18

Teams: 1.GBR 33, 2.EUR 61, 3.USA 89


The late stages of the Junior men’s race in Edinburgh where Kirubel Erassa (USA) edges out Kieron Clements and Mark Shaw for the top honours

U20 Men’s 6km

1.Kirubel Erassa (USA) 19:54, 2.Kieron Clements 19:55, 3.Mark Shaw 19:58, 4.Eddie Owens (USA) 20:08, 5.Andrew Gardner (USA) 20:11, …, 9.Jack Goodwin 20:22, 13.Charlie Grice 20:42, 17.Robbie Farnham-Rose 20:54, 18.Gordon Benson 20:56

Teams: 1.USA 16, 2.GBR 26, 3.EUR 48


Emelia Gorecka romps to a faraway victory in the junior women’s race

U20 Women’s 4km

1.Emelia Gorecka 14:48, 2.Aisling Cuffe (USA) 15:09, 3.Molly Siedel (USA) 15:57,…, 5.Iona Lake 15:27

Teams: 1.USA 15, 2.GBR 27, 3.EUR 62

Hattie Dean rebounded well from a below par outing in Velenje last Sunday to return a solid performance while Steve Vernon stepped up his game over the flat but quite muddy course at the IAAF Lotto XC Permit Meeting in Brussels, Belgium, today.

Vernon mixed it well with the chasing second pack to gradually mark out a creditable sixth in 33:56 slotting in the gap between fifth-marker Alex Kibet (KEN, 33:31) and multi-European champion on the country Sergey Lebid (UKR, 34:10), notching up the scalp of a disappointing Joshpat Bett (KEN) who just scraped into the top ten in 34:31.

Tom Humphries also applied well to come home a place ahead of Bett in 34:18 and carve out a very encouraging follow-up on a battling showing that contributed substantially into Britain’s silver in the senior men’s race at the Europeans last weekend, while European U23 silver medallist James Wilkinson followed a couple of spots behind in 34:33 for eleventh.

The senior men’s race itself (roughly 10500m) at the top could hardly bear the term contest as young Kenyan star Isaiah Koech, the world indoor U20 record holder over 5000m, was itching to go from the gun and totally let rip from the third lap on to destroy the field with ease, sparing huge daylight of 45 seconds on runner-up Atelaw Bekele in a winning time of 32:32.

The latter, a surprise new European champion in Velenje, returned quickly to the tough reality of cross-country beyond the continent boundaries but still fared well to hold off Gilbert Kirui by a couple of seconds.

The senior women’s event (roughly 6km) turned, by sharp contrast, a tight tussle that saw Caroline Chepkwony edge out compatriot Faith Kipyegon to a narrow victory by a mere second, clocking 21:17 and 21:18 respectively, out of a long drive for home around 600m out.

Ethiopia’s Almenesh Belete rounded out the top-three places not far off behind in 21:25 and considerably before Dutchwoman Adrienne Herzog who set 21:34 into fourth.

‘Hats’ Dean was more like herself again to finish top Briton in sixth, just as Vernon, in 21:44 but just a mere second ahead of surging comeback girl Steph Twell who keeps stunning everyone around with her competitive progress week after week – at this rate, she could well come on terms with her best form by spring!

For good measure, she finished top U23 Briton as a revived Emily Pidgeon showed glimpses of her talent again a little further back in ninth in 21:54, improving by chunks on her display at the European Trials in Liverpool, with European U23 5000m bronze medallist Stevie Stockton a place behind in 22:01 and Vilenje conqueror Emma Pallant down in twelfth in 22:07 – but she raised her game when it mattered!

Kieran Clement made easy going of the U20 men’s 6km race as he won by a full 20 seconds in 20:10 as the Brits occupied all top four positions with Charlie Grice entering the fray in fourth in 20:48, while promising 17-year-old miler Rob Farnham-Rose further behind in ninth (21:09).

Philippa Woolvan made it a double for the juniors from these shores in convincingly winning the girls equivalent by a good 12 secs in 15:27 over the roughly 4km route.

Full Results


Around Britain…

At the Manchester Open at the Sportcity, former European U23 silver medallist Luke Cutts made a useful low-key start to his indoor season as he cleared 5.20m in the pole vault, tying his best through the whole summer season. Hopefully, he is going to put his woes behind him and draw back on track to bid for an Olympic berth in London although he will probably need to improve his PB of 5.62 (2009) considerably to this effect.

Jarryd Dunn, moving into the U23 province in the new season, opened up in a straight indoor PB of 48.71 over 400m to carry on from where he left off last summer, reaching the seminfinals of the European U20 Championships in Tallinn.

Up in Sheffield at the Northern Athletics Open on Saturday, U23 decathlete Daniel Gardiner got his season off to a sound first-day of a weekend workout that drew a new PB of 6.94 secs over 60m, his first ever trip inside 7 seconds at that, combined with an indoor best ever figure of 7.36m in the long jump. Apart from those, he also reached 13.54m in the shot.

The men’s dash, however, was sneaked on the line by 17-year-old Ben Shields who powered off to a new PB of 6.93 secs to erase his previous best of 6.96 posted at the same venue last month, making  for a promising start.

The following day, Gardiner travelled down to Manchester to condlude his weekend assignment by way of a 4.10m in the pole vault and a 8.73 secs over 60m hurdles, both SBs.

Lewis Moses also ran an interesting solo 8:23.34 in the men’s 3000m.

In the women’s hurdles, Katey Read was a comfortable winner in 8.62 secs ahead of U23 Karla Drew, who ran a straight PB of 8.73 secs, and 18-year-old Katy Marchant who also PB’ed in 8.79 secs.

On the road, U23 Jess Coulson recorded a solid debut of 33:18 over 10km to finish top woman at Telford ahead of Sarah Hood, who set a big PB of 34:14 herself. Ben Tickner crept under 30mins by a couple of seconds to win the men’s contest convincingly from U23 John McDonnell, who posted 30:26 on his debut.

At the Ronnie Walker Saltwell 10k up in Gateshead, Ryan McLeod strolled away to an easiest of wins in 30:57 off the back of a sound showing at the European XC Championships, capped with a team silver, where Olympic marathon hopeful Alyson Dixon was first woman home in ninth in 35:59.

Britain have weaved a wealth of tradition at the European Cross Country Championships through the years and the contingent of harriers that travelled over to Velenje, Slovenia, showed eager to uphold and add to the legacy left to them from day one, performing with flying colours.

Emelia Gorecka surged through from behind to clinch victory in the late stages of the U20 women’s race to a dream start for the squad and Richard Goodman followed up swiftly in an inspirational battling display for silver in the equivalent men’s affair before a sweeping foray by the U23 girls led by a flying Emma Pallant ensured of the top place in the medal table as early as halfway through the racing programme on Sunday.

The final end product comprising 6 golds, 5 silvers and a bronze easily surpassed the pre-championships target and made for a jubilant return home of the team draped in medals and glory.


Senior Men

The blue ribbon event, as Brendan Foster dubbed it during Sunday’s commentary, turned somewhat of an anticlimax as the British seniors never really got into the main action and were very much sunk into the large field stretched out over the course.

And if there was a reprieve of a team silver in the end it felt against the flow of the race and was owed mainly to the perpetual workrate of the lesser lights of Ryan McLeod and James Walsh to grind out crucial, as it proved, 13th and 15th places at the end.

Main medal hope Andy Vernon, an eventual ninth, got ensnared towards the middle of the pack in a beguiling, even uninspiring at times, race and only read the situation when he had slipped well behind a chasing group effectively battling for the minor medals adrift of a runaway victor Atelaw Bekele (Belgium).

The last, admittedly even beyond his own expectations, made the most of a free ride he was allowed way out in front after the third kilometre into the race, taking his chances as everyone else seemed unwilling to commit, and was fully rewarded for his enterprise to do his illustrious name full credit with a comfortable win.

Former multi-winner Sergey Legid (UKR) was never a factor and finally dropped out as Spaniard Ayad Langassem, who broke up out of the medals over 10000m in Barcelona last year, and Jose Rocha (POR) got silver and bronze while Andy Baddeley endured a quiet noon well back in 25th place, with Mark Draper a few spots ahead.


British placings: 9.Andy Vernon 29:39, 13.Ryan McLeod 29:45, 15.James Walsh 29:46, 22.Mark Draper 29:51, 25.Andy Baddeley 29:57, 37.Frank Tickner 30:24

Team 2nd 59pts

Full Results


Senior Women

Gemma Steel turned in a performance as solid  in material as her surname to accomplish her finest feat in her short international running career in the shape of a battling bronze behind a commanding Fionnuala Britton (Ireland), stamping her authority on the contest from the early days.

The John Nuttall-coached Brit showed content to stay off the hot early pace up front and work her way up the field gradually along with Scot Freya Murray to move into the top ten positions by the second lap, a rather shaky Hattie Dean tracking them a little further behind.

Steel’s patient waiting game and industry didn’t take long to pay dividends picking off one after the other the leading pack who were suffering under the hammer of the Irish’s relentless tempo and tapering off, moving first past Portugal’s Dulce Felix into third and then round Italy’s Nadia Ejjafini into the silver medal spot midway through the penultimate lap – the duo having run 2h25:40 and 2h26:15 in the marathon recently.

Her confidence high now, she even drew within striking distance of Britton approaching the bell and momentarily looked as though she could pull off a major shocker but her rival had still plenty left in the tank to move up another gear and away nonchallantly to a commanding victory.

Steel came under a powerful attack by Felix, who had somehow conjured up a reserve of strength to charge back into the medals, round the last lap to be eventually edged out of silver in the fading stages of the race, but that could hardly take anything away from a brilliant performance and a well-deserved bronze – her smile told the whole story in the end.

What’s more, Murray, Julia Bleasdale and Elle Baker pulled their weight nicely around to come behind in succession from 12th through to 14th place and ensure the British outfit of a further team gold – a fitting birthday present for the last the following day.

An off-colour Dean trailed well behind for a disappointing 18th outside 27 mins but hopefully that will turn out simply a bad day at the office for her.

British placings: 3.Gemma Steel 26:04, 12.Freya Murray 25:51, 13.Julia Bleasdale 26:58, 14.Elle Baker 26:59, 18.Hattie Dean 27:07, Emily Wicks DNF

Team 1st 42pts

Full Results


U23 Men

James Wilkinson showed that he is coming of age and firmly on track to take up the reins and lead British steeplechase out of the shadows as he delivered an assured, inspirational performance over the course of Velenje that was bested only by the brilliance and superior footwork of French miler Florian Carvalho in the late stages.

The event offered two sharply contrasting sides as runners looked happy to virtually parade in large numbers around and none interested to take the initiative for the best part, the Russians showing some unconvincing intention to control things from the front, and sparked to life only towards the end of the penultimate lap when the Briton drifted ahead.

Looking round to identify his surroundings, he took a few moments to make up his mind and then forged ahead to quickly break up the field with fellow ‘mohawk’ Briton Mitch Goose slotting in behind him, acting like a shield.

Into the final circuit, ‘Wilco’ piled on the pace to narrow the contenders down to four, Goose dropping behind, looking strong but could offer nothing when Carvalho employed his mile speed to surge past into the front and swiftly carve out plenty of daylight on his rivals, tearing along to a comprehensive victory by a good three seconds.

Meanwhile, the battle for the lesser silverware was winding up behind as Norwegian Sondre Moen temporarily showed to have made a decisive move for silver with German Richard Ringer shadowing third and Wilkinson having dropped fourth now.

Nevertheless, the Briton hadn’t said his final word as he dug deep on his steeplechase strength to power past his opponents off the last turn and clinch the runner-up spot himself in awesome fashion, with Moen finally settling for bronze – a display suggesting that a move into the 8:20s over the barriers is well on the cards come summer.

Goose came a creditable eighth some way behind and combined with a useful account by Derek Hawkins back in 26th draw Britain second in the team standings for an additional silver.

British placings: 2.James Wilkinson 23:47, 8.Mitch Goose 23:57, 26.Derek Hawkins 24:18, 40.Phillip Berntsen 26:32, 41.Matt Gillespie 24:32, 45.Matt Graham 24:35

Team 2nd 76pts

Full Results


U23 Women

The British girls were highly tipped to conquer the summit of Velenje and turned equal to their ranking on the day although a sweeping victory arrived from a rather unexpected source, with an inspired Emma Pallant turning in a sensational performance.

The 22-year-old athlete hadn’t really sparkled since a promising track season opener of 4:09.96 over 1500m well back in Rabat in May 2009, albeit a bronze medalllist in Albufeira last year, and slipped down the pecking order even in her own training group of Mick Woods’s golden girls but her resilience carried her through to come up with a real statement that she is back to her best.

It was Steph Twell that began a long drive for home past the bell, in a venture to craft a fairytale return to the international scene, and was quickly joined up front by Pallant and a surprisingly fluent and composed Naomi Taschimowitz, who has been swiftly rising through the British distance ranks.

The three Britons combined well to open up a considerable lead on a small chasing group formed behind, comprising Germans Corinna Harrer and Anna Hahner as well as Ukrainian Victoriya Pohoryelska, and looked briefly as though they were pulling away for a clean sweep of medals.

However, as the last lap rolled on Twell was struggling to sustain her pace at the front and the pursuing trio paid heed to claw their way gradually back, whereon Pallant sensed the danger to strike out for home in a decisive move.

Rather surprisingly, none could muster any sort of response as the AFD runner poured on the pace to nonchallantly dominate the field, crossing the line full of running with a good five seconds to spare in 19:57. On this evidence, she could emerge as a serious contender for a place in the 5000m for Britain in London.

As if bearing years of experience on her shoulders, Taschimowitz once more timed her own effort and kick to perfection to wrap up a brilliant breakthrough display with silver whereas Twell was, sadly, pipped out of bronze by Harrer in the dying stages, yet another big step in quick succession back to her best form with a consolation of a comfortable team gold in the end.

Hannah Walker, topping the U23s in Liverpool a fortnight before, endured an uncharacteristic low flight in just seventh and Lauren Howarth came 13th as all six Britons figured in the top 20 for an impressive demonstration of strength in depth.

British placings: 1.Emma Pallant 19:57, 2.Naomi Taschimowitz 20:02, 4.Steph Twell 20:03, 7.Hannah Walker 20:12, 13.Lauren Howarth 20:34, 20.Lily Partridge 20:58

Team 1st 14pts

Full Results


U20 Men

British placings: 2.Richard Goodman 17:51, 8.Jonny Hay 18:09, 9.Kieren Clements 18:10, 11.Niall Fleming 18:18, 17.Mark Shaw 18:27, 25.Jack Goodwin 18:33

Team 1st 30pts

Full Results


U20 Women

British placings: 1.Emelia Gorecka 13:13, 6.Annabel Gummow 13:34, 16.Gemma Kersey 13:53, 17.Katie Holt 13:56, 31.Laura Muir 14:06, 33.Beth Carter 14:07

Team 1st 40pts

Full Results


(more later..)

UK Athletics have just announced the make-up of the British team that will travel to Vilenje, Slovenia, to contest the year’s European Cross-Country Championships next weekend.

There are no surprise calls whatever involved, save maybe that sensational U17 prospect Jessica Judd hasn’t eventually been picked for the U20 women’s outfit, as selectors seem to have gone stricktly by the book and for top five finishers at the respective Trials held in Liverpool on Saturday.

The mid to late stages in the women’s race with Hattie Dean a creditable seventh at last year’s European XC Championships

Steph Twell has been named as expected on a strong U23 women’s side, featuring Hannah Walker, Lauren Howarth and Emma Pallant,  that show the makings of firm gold medal contenders as Andy Baddeley returns to the picture after a while to join the likes of Andy Vernon.

Apart from the U23 women, the U20 women’s side look odds-on to claim the European title spearheaded by the fabulous duo of Emelia Gorecka and Annabel Gummow, silver and bronze medallists over 5000m in Kaunas last summer.

The overall side selected has as follows:

Senior Men

Andy Baddeley, Mark Draper, Ryan McLeod, Frank Tickner, Andy Vernon, James Walsh

Senior Women

Elle Baker, Julia Bleasdale, Hatti Dean, Freya Murray, Gemma Steel, Emily Wicks

U23 Men

Philip Berntsen, Matthew Gillespie, Mitch Goose, Matthew Graham, Derek Hawkins, James Wilkinson

U23 Women

Lauren Howarth, Emma Pallant, Lily Partridge, Naomi Taschimowitz, Steph Twell, Hannah Walker

U20 Men

Kieran Clements, Niall Fleming, Richard Goodman, Jack Goodwin, Jonny Hay, Mark Shaw

U20 Women

Beth Carter, Emelia Gorecka, Annabel Gummow, Katie Holt, Gemma Kersey, Laura Muir

Charlotte Purdue, one of Mick Woods‘s wonder distance girls, has finally opted out of the European Cross Country Championships in Slovenia a fortnight from now as she has apparently failed to shake off a knee complaint troubling her during the last ten days or thereabouts.

The European U20 XC reigning champion suffered the injury while training at altitude at Iten in Kenya last week and was forced to cut short her warm-weather stint there slightly earlier than intended to urgently return back to Britain.

She was feeling confident of making the starting line fully fit in Vilenje despite missing the European Trials in Liverpool yesterday but came out earlier to post “Decided not to run the European XC this year” on Twitter, indicating that she needs to keep her eyes on the greatest picture that is the London Olympics next summer.

At the end of the day, a very sensible decision on her part as the Olympics come around only once in four years, let alone in your own backyard, while she could still go back and contend for that very same title with even higher prospects on the country in a year again.

Senior Men (9.8km)

Andy Vernon has opened his individual account on the country to fabulous effect as he streaked past a surprisingly strong Mark Draper in the dying stages of the senior men’s race to convincingly defend his title in 29:19 in windy conditions, placing a good three seconds in between.

The World Student Games champion opted to sit in the leading pack to keep close hold of procedures throughout and didn’t hit the front but for roughly the last furlong where his superior track speed over the distance told. A substantial mental boost, he has got now a sterner task on his hands at the racing ground of Vilenje in less than a fortnight as he is turning to face his last year’s demons and force his way into the medals.

Highlights from Liverool on Saturday

Likewise, distance ‘drifter’ Draper, hardly a familiar figure in these quarters, cashed in on his recent altitude training spell in Kenya into runner-up (29:22) straight away and is looking for a lot more in Slovenia while hopefully earning a British vest will Mark a new beginning for him to reach his potential – maybe reverting to the barriers as shown late in summer?

Third, a mere two seconds adrift, came Ryan McLeod, the son of Olympic 10000m silver medallist Mike, to grab the last automatic slot in a solid display and returning-to-action Andy Baddeley may have done enough to earn his place following in fourth at a similar distance behind.

Apparently moving up to 5000m, the Beijing 1500m finalist employed a more reserved early pattern and showed only in the second half of the race to work his way through, edging out early leader James Walsh in an identical time (29:26) at the end.

Bristol’s winner Frank Tickner wound up sixth in 29:29, Steve Vernon was seventh some way behind in 29:38 while marathon Olympic hopeful Phil Wicks occupied an eventual ninth in 29:49 and US-based Keith Gerrard closed out the top ten in 29:52.


1.Andy Vernon 29:19, 2.Mark Draper 29:22, 3.Ryan McLeod 29:24, 4.Andy Baddeley 29:26, 5.James Walsh 29:26, 6.Frank Tickner 29:29, 7.Steve Vernon 29:38, 8.Ben Whitby 29:45, 9.Phil Wicks 29:49, 10.Keith Gerrard 29:52, 11.Jonny Taylor 29:53, …, 16.Jonny Mellor 30:04, 17.Ricky Stevenson 30:05, 19.David Bishop 30:05, 28.Jon Pepper 30:18, 26.Ben Moreau 30:20, 28.Glen Watts 30:29, 38.Steve Mitchell 30:56


U23 Men

‘American’ Mitch Goose rose a rather surprise U23 top finisher in 29:55, 12th overall, in a separate contest incorporated into the senior’s race but, rather astonishingly, it wasn’t pre-race favourite James Wilkinson he had to hold off to the title, trailing well behind in fifth (22nd overall) by a good 16 secs. But, quite likely, a one-off for the latter who ought to be shown confidence and be drafted into the age group outfit still.

Dereck Hawkins came home in second  just under 30 minutes (29:59) and steeplechaser Matthew Graham got his hands on the last automatic spot in 30:05.


1.Mitch Goose 29:55 (12th overall), 2.Dereck Hawkins 29:59 (14th), 3.Matthew Graham 30:05 (18th), 4.Matthew Gillespie 30:09 (20th), 5.James Wilkinson 30:11 (22nd), 6.Ashley Harrell 30:12 (24th), 7.John McDonnell 30:33 (32nd), 8.Charlie McLean 30:39 (42nd), 9.Daniel Clorley 31:04 (44th)


U20 Men (6.7km)

Jonny Hay emerged an impressive winner out of his much anticipated duel with Richard Goodman as his sizzling turn of pace in the final burn-up saw him fashion sheer daylight of six seconds between them at the end, clocking 20:23 to 20:29 respectively.

Both were very pleased with their displays, however, having also just returned from altitude training in Kenya. The last automatic berth was staked out by Mark Shaw who slotted nicely in the gap between the top duo and fourth-placer Kieran Clements for a convincing third in 20:37.


1.Jonny Hay 20:23, 2.Richard Goodman 20:29, 3.Mark Shaw 20:37, 4.Kieran Clements 20:44, 5.Niall Fleming 20:46, 6.Jack Goodwin 20:53, …, 8.Robbie Farnham-Rose 21:00, 9.Charlie Grice 21:05


U17 Men

1.Laurrie Probert 17:38, 2.Charlie Joslin-Allen 17:42, 3.James Lanswood 17:47, 4.Tom Bains 17:50


Senior Women (8.1km)

A dark horse as she had been going into the Trials, steeplechaser Hattie Dean showed plenty of horsepower in her gear to upstage pre-race favourite Gemma Steel into a fairytale comeback on the country of Liverpool, having not raced since late May in Rome.

But a touch of altitude training in the land of the runners, the famous Rift Valley, went a long way against a currently flying Steel, on an unbeaten run since September, who made her intentions clear from early on to make a tough pace out of it from the front and not leave matters to a late burn-up at the hands of faster finishers.

And her tactics all but worked to plan quickly since soon only Dean was still following along, yet fairly comfortably, as the two kept moving away from the rest of the field with every stride and lap.  But when the crunch came, the Barcelona ‘chase fourth placer’s strength and track speed told to work her crucial space that stretched up to four seconds in the end for a superb victory and a big confidence boost.

Needless to say that both booked their place on the team to Vilenje a fortnight on, clocking 27:05 and 27:09 respectively, with Scott Freya Murray, racing into form after an intermittent year due to sorts of injuries, just pipping up-and-coming U23 Hannah Walker for the last automatic place as both shared the same time of 27:32. The latter must have been more than content to clinch her age group title though.

A race of fairytale returns was most fittingly suplemented a place behind with the delightful sight of Steph Twell, in her first serious competitive test since her freak ankle injury in February, who applied well and performed beyond all expectations to secure the runner-up spot and a berth in the U23 side in 27:37. Maybe the story of the day above all with her hopes receiving a massive mental boost in view of London next summer.

Charlene Thomas, also on a return after a lengthy injury lay-off, came in well behind in 14th in 28:15 and Sian Edwards, a nearly forgotten golden prospect of the recent past, trailed a long way back in 34th well over two minutes behind the top places; can she revive the promise she showed in the U20 ranks only a few seasons ago?


1.Hattie Dean 27:05, 2.Gemma Steel 27:09, 3.Freya Murray 27:32, 4.Hannah Walker (U23) 27:32, 5.Steph Twell (U23) 27:37, 6.Julia Bleasdale 27:39, 7.Elle Baker 27:44, 8.Naomi Taschimovitz (U23) 27:45, 9.Emma Pallant (U23) 28:04, 10.Emily Wicks 28:05, …, 14.Charlene Thomas 28:15, 15.Justina Heslop 28:19, 16.Lauren Howarth (U23) 28:24, 17.Katrina Wooton 28:26, 19.Natalie Harvey 28:39, 20.Jessica Sparke 28:35, 31.Andrea Whitcombe (W35) 28:35, 24.Emily Pidgeon (U23) 28:43, 25.Beth Potter (U23) 28:49, 30.Kate Avery (U23) 29:10, 31.Jessica Coulson (U23) 29:21, 32.Abbey McGhee (U23) 29:24, 34.Sian Edwards 29:31, 41.Felicity Milton 29:41


U23 Women

Behind Walker and a buoyant Twell, new face in the swim Naomi Taschimovitz ensured of a British vest taking third in 27:45 and Emma Pallant followed in fourth in 28:04 to effectively qualify herself.

On the other hand, Lauren Howarth must have been disappointed with just a 16th finish in 28:24 while Emily Pidgeon ranged further adrift in 24th in 28:43 and Kate Avery ended up well down the order in 30th in 29:10, both still looking to find their way.

Most surprisingly, new Mick Woods-asset Jess Coulson trailed way behind in 31st only a couple of months on setting a UK age best over 10 miles, some niggle possibly creeping in in the interim.

1.Hannah Walker 27:32, 2.Steph Twell 27:37, 3.Naomi Taschimovitz 27:45, 4.Emma Pallant 28:04, 5.Lily Partridge 28:09, 6.Lauren Howarth 28:24


U20 Women (4.4km)

The eagerly anticipated three-way clash in the affair, incorporating the U17 group, remained on paper as Emelia Gorecka turned up with ideas of her own to demolish the field with aplomb in the most impressive performance of the day.

The race stood as a contest only round the first lap until the European U20 5000m silver medallist, another one of Mick Woods’s wonder girls, moved up a gear to swiftly open up a decisive gap that was ever growing and claim the race sight unseen.

Her final winning margin of 16 seconds, wrapping up the distance in 14:54, simply echoed the magnitude and quality of her supremacy and form as she will be heading to Slovenia with confidence sky high to add the European title to her silverware.

Notwithstanding a thorough defeat, sensational U17 Jessica Judd turned in a stellar display of her own to convincingly hold off  European U20 bronze medallist Annabel Gummow into a superb runner-up for her tender age, clocking 15:10 to 15:15 respectively, and demonstrate her amazing range once more while Stoke’s Katie Holt emerged as a new force, just a 9:55 performer over 3000m last summer, to grab a sound fourth in 15:23 further behind.

1.Emelia Gorecka 14:54, 2.Jessica Judd (U17) 15:10, 3.Annabel Gummow 15:15, 4.Katie Holt 15:23, 5.Amy Griffiths (U17) 15:25, 6.Beth Carter 15:28, 7.Gemma Kersey 15:31, 8.Laura Muir 15:42, 9.Grace Baker (U17) 15:42


U17 Women

Apart from highly-anticipated Judd, 15-year-old Amy Griffiths shone brightly herself to clinch a striking overall fifth and second in the U17 class in 15:25 as she is rising a new fascinating prospect through the ranks and a potential heir to the summit.

Grace Baker, also 15, was third and ninth overall in 15:42 to add to a very prolific day for Woods’s group.

1.Jessica Judd 15:10, 2.Amy Griffiths 15:25, 3.Grace Baker 15:42, 4.Abbie Hetherington 16:00

Full Results



Purdue out but Twell comes in at European XC Trials in Liverpool

Top distance hopeful Charlotte Purdue will be missing the second leg of the McCain’s Cross-Country Challenge, incorporating the European Trials for Velenje (Slovenia) a fortnight on Sunday, due to a knee complaint that forced her into a slightly earlier return from a training stint in Kenya last week.

Nevertheless, the Mick Woods-coached U23 runner looks to have been pre-selected on the senior team and can solely turn her sights on the European Championships where she is aiming to steer into the medals.

By contrast, groupmate star Steph Twell, having also just returned from Kenya, is contesting her first serious race since a freak accident in February that saw her miss the entire track season, hoping to snatch a place of her own on the British team.

The 22-year-old tested her leg in a calculated gamble of a low-key road relay in September to come off well and unscathed but she is still lying some way off top shape and therefore may have to fight her way into the U23 outfit, with Hannah Walker, Lauren Howarth and teammate Emma Pallant figuring among the starters.

On the other hand, in-excellent-form Gemma Steel is brimming with confidence and pace as she heads into the race as standout senior favourite to clinch a second back-to-back victory in the series and it’s hard to see where a challenge could come from given the complexion of the affair.

Backing up her claim, the 26-year-old remains unbeaten on any surface or distance since September and would like to add to that three-on-the-trot string.

A further couple of very welcome returns to the fold involve ‘chaser Hattie Dean, fourth over the barriers in Barcelona last year, who competes for the first time since injury ruined a season that started in the most promising colours of a straight Olympic qualifier of 9:37.95 in Rome last May; as well as European Cup 1500m victor Charlene Thomas who hasn’t raced on any surface since the very same time of her highest feat so far as though following parallel fortunes.

Despite their pedigree, both are going to be unknown quantities until the contest gets going and maybe even further until it hits decisive stages, likely feeling their way into action.

Freya Murray, Justina Heslop and Julia Bleasdale are other notable names on the start-lists, which oddly don’t include the name of Thomas – a late withdrawal?

On the men’s side, the presence of World Student Games champion Andy Vernon promises an injection of quality on the opener of the series and a stern test for the likes of Frank Tickner and Phil Wicks, the prominent figures in Bristol, along with the comeback of Andy Baddeley on the country after sitting out last winter. It will be really interesting to see what sort of proposition the latter is going to offer on the back of a poor summer campaign.

U23 steeplechaser James Wilkinson has got to be a red-hot favourite among U23 men while James Walsh, Tom Humphries and Mark Draper, apparently working his way back over the barriers, are other names to watch.

Emelia Gorecka and Annabel Gummow, the silver and bronze medallists over 5000m at the European U20 Championships, engage in a very enticing duel in the junior ranks anew and the affair is spiced up nicely with the presence of sensational U17 prospect Jessica Judd.

The first three-past-the-post in each division gain automatic qualification for Slovenia although an U23 runner that finishes in a senior qualifying spot, with the two age groups blended into a single race, can still claim his place in the top tier.


Entry Lists

Selection policy

David Forrester (Florida State) confirmed his recent good form on the American country as he placed a solid 16th at the NCAA Championships at Terre Haute, Indiana, on Monday.

The 21-year-old, making a move up to 5000m since last season, was coming on the back of a winning outing in the South Regionals in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and covered the roughly 10km course in 29:40.6 as Arizona’s Lawi Lalang (KEN) came away with a convincing win by over 13 secs in 28:44.1 after breaking away past the 5km mark.

U20 Callum Hawkings (Butler) can be content with his 26th spot in 29:56.4 while U23 Tom Farrell finished closely behind in 29:58.6 for Oklahoma, who got runner-ups in the team standings.

Mitch Goose was further behind in 40th place in 30:12.4 for Iona.

Men’s Results

On the women’s side, Hannah Brooks was first Briton home in 20:18.1 for 19th over the 6km distance to head Florida State just outside the medals, climbing fourth on the teams table, with former steeplechaser Ruth Senior further back in 41st in 20:31.3 for the ‘Lobos’ of New Mexico.


Villanova’s Sheila Reid (CAN) edged out Oregon’s Jordan Hasay in a close finish to successfully defend her top honours with a gap of just 0.6 secs separating them at the end.

Women’s Results


There isn’t any top drawer road event going on around this weekend but still some interesting pieces of action to pick up. But, first of all, let’s mention that Jamaican sprint superstar Usain Bolt and Aussie hurdler Sally Pearson were named Athletes Of The Year for 2011 at the glamorous World Athletics Gala in Monaco last night.

World Athletics Gala, Monaco

Bolt claimed the illustrious award for the third time in his career courtesy mainly of his blazing dash round the furlong to a sensational 19.40 secs ahead of Walter Dix (USA) in successfully defending his global title in Daegu, as well as anchoring the Jamaican 4x100m outfit to a world record of 37.04 secs  in the curtain-drawer of the championships. Pearson, for her part, scooped the women’s respective prize first time out in the top three nominations of the institution, having notched the gold medal over the 100m hurdles in the fourth fastest time ever of 12.28 secs and winning all but one of her races during the season.

Sally Pearson blazes over the hurdles to a stunning 12.28 secs in Daegu

However, fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake could feel hard done by to be denied the gong as he produced a nearly surreal 19.26 secs over the 200m at the Diamond League in Brussels, on a poor reaction (0.259) at that, and was himself a convincing 100m global champion, where Bolt uncharacteristically blundered into a shocking false-start, and played also a key part in the Jamaican relay round the top bend himself.

As could Kenyan distance queen Vivian Cheruiyot who made an impressive golden double of the 5000 and the 10000m in Korea while also enjoying an unbeaten run over either distance on the track.

Which, in turn, may have been the ground that they were both sort of ‘compensated for’ by way of the Performance Of The Year awards by IAAF on their above mentioned feats, suggesting something like a ‘books balance-out’ policy on account of the world’s athletics governing body.

There is also a wide sense that Mo Farah could have merited a share in the men’s final cut on a nothing less than a purple patch of performances and achievements this season but hopefully he is going to force his way in through some further enthralling displays on the track of the Olympic stadium of London next year.

IAAF report



McCain UK Cross-Country Challenge, Bristol

Frank Tickner and strong favourite Gemma Steel have been the winners in men and women at the McCain’s Challenge earlier on in Bristol in very good racing conditions, the latter romping to an around 41 secs sound victory margin over Naomi Taschimowitz and a round 50 secs on returning Justina Heslop – the winning time at 25:26.

That was a fitting way to celebrate her 26th birthday yesterday as the Charnwood runner is enjoying the form of her life and targeting the European Cross-Country Championships next month.

Jessica Sparke was seventh in 27:15 and Kate Avery is still looking some way off her best self to come only 12th in 28:04.

Gemma Steel

Senior women’s results

The men’s race built up into a much more competitive affair and it came only in the closing stages that Tickner, who astonishingly hasn’t raced on the track since 2008, drew away to clinch top honours in 29:56 from eventual runner-up Phil Wicks (30:08) and U23 Welshman Dewi Griffiths (30:17).

Senior men’s results

In the U20 province, Kieran Clements was a thorough top marker by some 45 secs in 23:31 from Irishman Liam Brady while Annabel Gummow, the European U20 5000m bronze medallist, demolished the field by a huge gap of 1:24 to cross the line in 17:43.

U20 men results

U20 women results

Meanwhile, Emelia Gorecka, the European U20 silver medallist over 5000m, was the winner in the women’s senior race at the Hamshire League on Saturday.



NCAA Regionals – Millington third in Utah

Ross Millington built further on his good early run of outings on the American country as he placed third over the men’s roughly 10km course in 30:24.8 at the NCAA Mountain Region XC Championships held at Provo, Utah. The European U23 5000m silver medallist was pleased with his display and wasn’t far off winner Miles Batty (30:09.3) and runner-up and home favourite Cameron Levins (30:11.5).

Millington’s side, the University of New Mexico, finished just outside the top three spots in fourth.

Men’s Results

Former steeplechaser Ruth Senior, a global U20 finalist in 2006, was the highest finisher among British girls in 7th in 21:05.8 over the 6km route in a race won comfortably by Kenyan Risper Kimaiyo (Texas) in 20:35.2 but did head New Mexico on top of the team standings, with Sarah Waldron 13th in 21:21.3.

Natalie Gray, Kirsty Milner and Imogen Ainsworth followed some way back in close succession in 20th, 21st and 23rd respectively and apparently working their way through on team tactics.

Women’s Results


David Forrester returned to winning ways as he edged out teammate Michael Fout by nearly three seconds in 30:43.3 to 30:46.0, ensuring Florida of an easy top spot in the team standings in the South Regionals.

Hannah Brooks was a close runner-up behind Amanda Winslow as Florida made a clean sweep of the podium places in Tuscaloosa, topping the women’s table in the process.

Men’s Results

Women’s Results


Callum Hawkins extended his strong start to the cross-country term as he saw off Eric Finan (Cincinatti) to victory by over seven seconds in a time of 30:01.5 at the Great Lakes Regionals. Ross Clarke was 13th in 30:36.5.

Men’s Results


Tom Farrell, second European U23 over 5000m last summer, wound up sixth in 31:23.03 in a tight finish affair where only winner Hassan Mead edged off to a six-second margin at the end in the Midwest division.

Men’s Results


Mitch Goose was fifth for Iona in 31:28.0 at the North East Regionals held by the University of Buffalo, with teammate Leonard Korir (KEN) the winner in 31:10.3. Hollie Rowland was third in the women’s 6km in 20:40.2 some way behind top finisher Abbey D’Agostino (20:25.3).

Men’s Results

Women’s Results



Merga gets off to winning start on the country in Spain

Imane Merga may have endured an entire track season without a single victory to his credit on the circuit but back on the country he showed a different proposition. The Ethiopian and his ‘killing elbows’ managed to haul in a powerful late surge by Eritrean Kidane Tadesse over the last 300m to edge past and back to winning ways at Atapuerca by a mere second, crossing the line in 27:21 to 27:22 respectively. Humengnaw Mesfin (ETH) was a close third a further two seconds behind.

By contrast, Linet Masai (KEN) turned a runaway victor in the women’s race in 24:20 as she carved out a sound 22 secs on runner-up Belaynesg Oljira (ETH), with fellow Kenyan Priscah Jeptoo closing out the top three an additional ten seconds behind.

U23 Briton Hannah Walker placed a creditable eighth in that very good quality race in a time of 26:20 as she is building up nicely towards the new season.


Boubker comes away with convincing win in Athens Marathon

30-year-old Abdelkerim Boubker rose a rather surprise but yet convincing victor on the demanding original marathon course of Athens in the face of cold blustery conditions. The Moroccan set a creditable time of 2h11:40, among the fastest ever set thereon, to comfortably hold off Kenyan Sammy Kipkosgei Chumba who came home second in 2h13:27.

The well-versed on the course will tell you that it adds up to even three and a half to four minutes on what one would run on a fast course like Berlin or London due to tough lengthy and treacherous uphill segments and turns during the first 30km of the race or thereabouts, which require a gentle and astute approach to tackle.

Interestingly, runner-up Chumba said after the race “I think I’m capable of 2ho8 on another course!”

Elfeneshe Melkamu (ETH) inched off to a close win over Ukraine’s Kamila Khanipova in 2h35:25 to 2h35:31 in the women’s version.

Results (Top 20)


El Idrissi edges surprise victory in Turin

Sunday turned out into a rare Moroccan double triumph out of two marathon runs on the Mediterrenean as Italy-based Ennaji El Idrissi, a 13:06.81 performer over 5000m on the track, shocked the favourites to edge away to victory in a big PB of 2h08:13.

Kenya’s William Chebor was second in 2h08:21, Ethiopian Bacha Megersa was third in 2h08:55 and also Kenyan Peter Kurui was just outside the podium in 2h08:58 to work a surprising depth in the affair.

Ukraine’s Yuliya Ruban eased to a thorough win in the women’s version in 2h27:10, a mere 10 secs outside her PB.