A look ahead to the British Athletics Cross Challenge meeting at Sefton Park, which incorporates the GB trials for the European Cross Country Championships
The fact that Saturday’s British Athletics Cross Challenge meeting in Liverpool doubles up as the trials for next month’s European Cross Country Championships makes it a target for many of the big names in British endurance running.
The entry lists don’t disappoint and, with the top four from each senior and under-23 race at Sefton Park qualifying for the six-strong British line-ups in Slovakia on December 10 (two further athletes in each are given discretionary selection), while the first five in the under-20 races win a spot on the team (one further athlete in each is given a discretionary selection), there will certainly be an added dimension to the contests.
In the senior men’s race, Andrew Butchart comes down from altitude training in Font Romeu to defend the title he won last year after a dominant performance which left Callum Hawkins having to settle for second.
Hawkins doesn’t return as he focuses on training for the Commonwealth Games marathon, but four of Butchart’s 2016 Euro Cross team gold medallists – Andy Vernon, recent 2:09 marathon man Dewi Griffiths and Ben Connor – will toe the Liverpool start line.
The performance of another Scot in fine current form – Luke Traynor – will also be a source of interest and Cardiff winner Sam Stabler competes.
The senior men’s event includes the trial for the European under-23 team and the man in form is Milton Keynes winner Mahamed Mahamed. His brother, Zak is part of the strong field assembled for the IAAF junior men’s contest for under-20s, which also features the likes of Milton Keynes junior men’s winner Ben Dijktstra.
The senior women’s race has serious contenders everywhere you look as four-time winner Gemma Steel defends her title and Jessica Judd competes following wins at the Cross Challenge events in Cardiff and Milton Keynes so far.
Last year’s Euro Cross sixth-placer Steph Twell is in action, with her and Steel joined by their fellow Euro Cross team silver medallists from last year – Charlotte Arter, Katrina Wootton and Emily Hosker Thornhill.
Phoebe Law was part of the team which struck European gold in the women’s under-20 event in Italy almost 12 months ago and is now stepping up to qualify for the under-23s. The under-20s race will feature Harriet Knowles-Jones, an individual European bronze medallist in Italy, while Khahisa Mhlanga will go for her third Cross Challenge victory this season.
The action gets under way at 11:00 on Saturday (November 26) with the under-11 boys and girls races, while the senior women’s and men’s races are at 13:15 and 14:05 respectively.
» See the November 23 edition of AW magazine for a more in-depth preview and timetable. The November 30 edition will include 10 pages of coverage, while updates will be posted on Twitter @AthleticsWeekly and in a report at athleticsweekly.com