Vernon and Steel in National Cross action

A look ahead to this weekend’s Saucony English National Cross Country Championships at Wollaton Park

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Steve Vernon will be looking to make history while Gemma Steel will be hoping for two National wins in three years at the Saucony English National Cross Country Championships on Saturday.

Stockport athlete Vernon heads to the iconic venue of Wollaton Park in Nottingham, which is hosting this event for the first time, eyeing a record eighth medal. If the 2011 champion can see off the likes of Jonny Taylor and the Southern Championships top two of Richard Goodman and Frank Tickner and claim his eighth medal, he would take an outright lead on the all-time leaderboard ahead of Dave Clarke and Ernest Harper, both of whom have also won seven medals at the National.

Vernon spent the first part of the winter returning from injury after a mountain bike crash, but he has since spent a spell at altitude in Kenya. Keith Gerrard, meanwhile, who beat Vernon to the National title in the slush and snow of Sunderland 12 months ago, will miss this weekend’s event due to injury.

Euro Cross medallist Steel will be looking to retain her 2012 title, having finished third in Sunderland last year and will go up against the likes of defending champion Louise Damen, Lily Partridge, Steph Twell, Charlie Purdue and Southern champion Jess Andrews.

Another Aldershot, Farnham & District athlete in action is Euro Cross junior champion Emelia Gorecka who will be bidding for a hat-trick of under-20 titles since she is still a junior under domestic rules. Victory would see her claim her eighth title in succession since winning the under-13 title in 2007.

Euro Cross runner Alex Clay is also entered, as is triathlete Georgia Taylor-Brown who finished fourth behind Gorecka in Belgrade in December but then beat her to the BUCS title at the beginning of this month in Stirling.

This weekend also sees the Scottish National Cross Country Championships take place at Callendar Park in Falkirk, with the 2100 entries received making this year’s event the biggest since 1995.

Freya Ross, Rhona Auckland, Beth Potter, Callum Hawkins, Wegene Tafese and Tewolde Mengisteab are among those entered.

» See the February 20 issue of AW for a two-page more in-depth preview to the events

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