A look ahead to the English National, Welsh and Scottish Cross Country Championships taking place on Saturday
Donington Park hosts the Saucony English National Cross Country Championships for the first time and it has attracted another huge entry with 7850 athletes entered from 538 clubs.
While many of the big names may be absent, 2834 entries have been received for the 129th senior men’s race.
Defending champion Charlie Hulson was injured early season but returned to win the North of England event and more recently the Armargh 5km. Last year’s other medallists, Andy Heyes and Nick Swinburn, are also entered along with Midland champion Alex Brecker.
Over 1240 have been entered for the 84th senior women’s race. They include defending champion Lily Partridge, who, like Hulson, is lightly raced and her four races over the winter have all been abroad.
Also entered are the three area champions Jane Potter (Midlands); Naomi Taschimowitz (South) and Claire Duck (North).
Last year’s under-17 champion Harriet Knowles-Jones may start as the favourite in the under-20 event, while Sabrina Sinha looks the pick of the under-17s as she has a knack of winning on even years.
The under-20 men’s race could see 2015 under-17 winner Mahamed Mahamed to the fore, though his South of England conqueror Max Nicholls should also be among the medals. The South also had the most impressive area winners in the under-17s through Rob Huckle.
The first two to finish in each of the senior and junior races will be given the opportunity to run for England in the Home Countries International to be held in Scotland.
Welsh Cross Country Championships
Dewi Griffiths is aiming to claim a fifth consecutive Welsh cross-country title in Singleton Park.
Guy Smith and Marc Hobbs of Swansea Harriers and Ieuan Thomas of Cardiff AAC are also likely to feature in the senior men’s race.
Caryl Jones dominated the British Athletics Cardiff Cross Challenge in January and is another Harrier who will start as a favourite.
Andrea Whitcombe of Swansea Harriers has previously won Welsh and English titles on the country and will be on hand to support Jones.
Christian Lovatt of Swansea Harriers and Ciaran Lewis of Cardiff AAC will renew their rivalry in the junior men’s race.
The under-20 women’s race should see a battle between the in-form Heidi Davies of Brecon AC and Bronwen Owen of Scarborough AC.
Scottish Cross Country Championships
Cross-country’s growing popularity in Scotland has been underlined again by a strong response for the 2016 National Cross Country Championships at Callendar Park, Falkirk.
The overall figure of 2295 athletes entered for races from under-13 to seniors/masters has been bettered only once at this event in more than 40 years stretching back to the early 1970s.
Reigning champion Andrew Butchart, who set a Scottish native record in the 3000m indoors at the Glasgow Grand Prix, has confirmed he will defend his title at Falkirk this weekend rather than race indoors at the British Champs.
Butchart’s club, Central AC, are looking for a sixth successive win in the men’s team race.
Olympians Freya Ross and Susan Partridge, both former winners, are listed for the women’s race on a day which will see action for Commonwealth Games athletes, GB internationals and Scotland internationals at various age levels.
» See the February 25 edition of AW magazine for more in-depth previews to the three events, while the March 3 edition of the magazine will include coverage from Donington Park, Singleton Park and Callendar Park