Here are some of the contenders for the British Universities & Colleges Sport annual cross country championships in Gloucester on Saturday

The nation’s finest student athletes will descend upon Gloucester’s Plock Court grounds for the BUCS Cross Country Championships this weekend, with a largely flat course laid out by the University of Gloucestershire, writes Beren Cross.

While the three athletics powerhouses University of Birmingham, Loughborough University and St Mary’s University will feature prominently in the team standings, it is likely international experience will be required for individual success.

For the men, BUCS separates the championships into two races. The long race (10.2km) is for the cream of the crop and the short (7.3km) something of a free-for-all for those not chosen for their university’s first team.

The 2012 and 2015 champion Jonathan Hay has graduated from Birmingham, but seven of last year’s top-10 are set to return in Gloucester, with Callum Hawkins (University of the West of Scotland) and Jonathan Davies (Birmingham) leading the entries.

Until last month’s Great Edinburgh Cross Country, the Reading athlete had shown the better form on the mud with an under-23 European title in France, first at the Milton Keynes Cross Challenge and fastest leg at the English Relays in Mansfield.

However, after a superb autumn road season, including a 2016 Olympic qualifying mark at the Frankfurt Marathon, Hawkins was second Briton behind Mo Farah in Edinburgh last month.

The 23-year-old Scot was 34 seconds ahead of Davies, and another 12 ahead of Richard Goodman (St Mary’s), that day, possibly making him the favourite in Gloucestershire on Saturday.

Davies was second in Brighton last year, but was only three seconds ahead of Hawkins, with Goodman another six seconds back.

Look out too for Jacob Allen (St Mary’s) and Henry Pearce (Loughborough) in a competitive men’s field.

Emelia Gorecka (Royal Holloway) has raced just once over cross country since she won last year’s women’s championship in Brighton. The British indoor 3000m champion was out of action for six months through injury in 2015, but made a return in the Lotto Cross Cup on November 1 in Mol, Belgium.

However, the 22-year-old has not raced since, with little known about her current form or whether she will even toe the start line in Gloucester.

The under-raced, two-time BUCS cross country champion will have to keep one eye on last year’s bronze medallist Amy Griffiths (St Mary’s) if she does compete. Other challengers for medals could include Jenny Nesbitt (University of Bath), Rebecca Murray (Birmingham), Jessica Judd (Loughborough), Louise Small (St Mary’s) and Mari Smith (Birmingham).

» This is an abridged version of a preview article that appears in the latest (Feb 4) issue of Athletics Weekly. The next issue of AW, out on February 11, will feature six pages of reports and photographs from the BUCS Cross Country Championships