Beren Cross takes a look ahead to the Inter-Counties Cross Country Championships in Birmingham

With no World Cross Country Championships to fight for in 2016, the attention at this year’s Inter-Counties Cross Country Championships turns to overall placings in the British Athletics Cross Challenge.

There are double points on offer at Birmingham’s Cofton Park on Saturday and more than £12,000 in prize money available across the full range of age groups competing.

Senior races

Dewi Griffiths currently leads the Cross Challenge rankings after podium spots at Milton Keynes, Liverpool and Cardiff, while Ross Millington, who is not in the hunt for the prize pot, is arguably the race favourite for this 12km after winning in Liverpool last November, finishing 16th at the European Cross Country Championships and then snatching fifth as third Briton in Edinburgh.

The women’s 8km contest is likely to be decided by Great Britain’s top three finishers at the European Championships in December.

Gemma Steel and Steph Twell have each raced recently on distinctly different surfaces and may not even toe the start line, given they are not in with a shout of taking home the £2000 prize pot.

The third woman, Kate Avery, who has remained on the mud since her silver medal in Hyeres and is very much in the running for the cash prize, is currently a narrow third in the standings behind Louise Small and Elle Vernon.

Under-20 races

Kent’s Bobby Clay has a phenomenal head-to-head record with Cheshire’s Harriet Knowles-Jones, defeating her 14 times in 15 meetings across all surfaces and distances. However, Knowles-Jones recorded her first victory over Clay this winter at the European Cross Country Championships.

Knowles-Jones, who was disqualified at Cofton Park last year for not wearing her timing chip correctly, was beaten by Surrey’s Phoebe Law, who returns to defend her title.

The latest chapter in Mahamed Mahamed and Ben Dijkstra’s rivalry is also set to be written at Cofton Park.

Surrey’s Gus Cockle, the top-ranked junior 5000m runner last summer, was second at the English National Championships last month and can expect to improve on last year’s 14th place.

Other age-group races

In the under-17 men’s category five athletes are still in with a chance of stealing the series victory, with Cambridgeshire’s Rob Huckle best-placed, following wins at Milton Keynes and Cardiff.

Mick Woods’ influence will be felt in the under-17 women’s contest, with Surrey’s Niamh Brown the form athlete following her English National victory in Castle Donington.

Just five points separate the major series candidates in the under-15 boys, with Zak Mahamed leading after wins in Milton Keynes and Liverpool.

Dorset’s Grace Copeland is the leader in the girls’ event after consistent finishes in Milton Keynes, Liverpool and Cardiff.

Yorkshire’s Tommy Dawson is unbeaten in this series, with under-13 boys’ wins in Liverpool and Cardiff, while Femke Rosbergen is on a roll after wins in the under-13 girls’ races in Antrim and Cardiff.

TIMETABLE

11am Under-20 men (8km)
11.30am Under-13 boys (3km)
11.45am Senior women (8km)
12.25pm Under-15 boys (4.5km)
12.45pm Under-17 women (5km)
1.10pm Under-20 women (6km)
1.35pm Under-13 girls (3km)
1.55pm Under-17 men (6km)
2.15pm Under-15 girls (4km)
2.40pm Senior men (12km)

Also in cross-country action this weekend are a number of British students as they compete at the World University Cross Country Championships in Italy.

BUCS Cross Country Championships top three Pippa Woolven, Rebecca Murray and Jennifer Nesbitt are among those on the team, as is Andrew Hayes.

» See the March 10 edition of AW magazine for a more in-depth look ahead to the Birmingham event, while the March 17 edition will include reports, pictures and results from Cofton Park