A look ahead to Saturday’s UK Inter-Counties Championships which also acts as the trials for the World Cross event in Guiyang and incorporates the Cross Challenge final
There is plenty to play for at the multi-purpose UK Inter-Counties at Cofton Park this weekend. The event incorporates the World Cross trials but is just the official trial for the junior teams, as British Athletics will only be selecting senior athletes if they believe they have top-30 potential for Guiyang later this month or future World Cross events, although the policy does state that exceptions can be made.
While there is no official trial for the senior teams, performances at Cofton Park on Saturday will be given “strong consideration”. Up to six athletes for each of the junior teams may be selected. The first three placed eligible athletes on Saturday gain automatic selection. Under-17 athletes must compete in the under-20 race to be eligible for selection, while athletes born in 1995 who were eligible to compete as a junior at last year’s Euro Cross will now be seniors, as per IAAF rules.
The 2014-15 Cross Challenge series also concludes this weekend and many athletes will have their eyes on the overall prizes.
Adam Hickey stretched his senior men’s series lead with victory in Milton Keynes added to a win in Cardiff, while reigning Inter-Counties champion Lily Partridge sits just behind Imogen Ainsworth in the senior women’s standings having contested one less event.
Double points are up for grabs in Birmingham.
Charlie Hulson and Lily Partridge will both be looking to do the National and Inter-Counties double, the pair fresh from their victories at Parliament Hill.
Richard Goodman claimed last year’s men’s Inter-Counties title, while Dewi Griffiths secured Cross Challenge series victory. Both athletes are set to be among those racing.
Adam Hickey leads the 2014/15 Cross Challenge standings from Andrew Butchart and Dean Lacy and the trio are also among those in action.
“Unfortunately I got a bit ill before the nationals, but I’m over that now and looking forward to the weekend,” said Hickey, who won in Cardiff and Milton Keynes before finishing seventh when suffering a cold at Parliament Hill a fortnight ago.
“You can’t write anyone off,” he added. “Dewi and Andrew had their national championships and they both won, so they’re going to be contenders, so it will be a good, honest race. I never shy away from tough competition.”
Butchart said: “My form is pretty good with winning the Scottish nationals. I didn’t have the best of races at Milton Keynes, with the travelling down and wrong choice of spikes, but Adam outran me anyway. It will be a good race in Birmingham with a few big names that will show up on Saturday.
“I want to win and I aim to win this weekend. I wouldn’t say I’d be disappointed if I didn’t win, but I think I’m going to play it a bit better tactically and try to conserve as much energy as I can and use it at the finish.
“It’s 12km so a bit longer than I would have liked anyway – I’ll have to sit on whoever is at the front and see how the race unfolds.”
Looking for another win as she defends her senior women’s Inter-Counties title, Partridge said: “I’m excited. I love running the Inter-Counties for Surrey and it’s always a good race when it’s the World Cross trials as everyone seems to turn up. I think being in the running to win the Cross Challenge series makes it more of a challenge and I always get excited going into the big races.
“I’d be disappointed if I didn’t win again on Saturday,” she added. “Obviously winning it once, you don’t want to lose that title, so I’m looking forward to it.
“All the girls are really strong – there’s a group coming back from Kenya, the girls that are close to me in the standings and my club mates are a threat because I know how hard they train. I’m not counting anybody out because it’s a World Cross trials and everybody is going to be on form so it should make it a good race.”
Among the athletes missing will be her fellow Aldershot, Farnham & District runner Emelia Gorecka as she forms part of the GB team for the European Indoor Championships in Prague.
Last year’s runner-up and overall Cross Challenge series winner Katie Brough is due to race.
While her husband Steve is not set to return to try and improve on his two silver medals, Elle Vernon is due to run for Greater Manchester.
A number of athletes will be battling for junior World Cross spots as well as Inter-Counties titles and a strong Cross Challenge finish.
Second in the Cross Challenge standings after a win in Cardiff and seventh place in Liverpool, Welsh champion Jac Hopkins competes for Wales West. His fellow Welsh athlete Iolo Hughes, running this weekend for Wales North, leads the standings after scoring points in all three events so far, having last year claimed the overall under-17 series victory.
Phoebe Law was runner-up in the junior race at the English National behind Rebecca Murray, who goes in the senior women’s event in Birmingham, and the Surrey athlete leads the Cross Challenge standings ahead of Bronwen Owen and Helena Keenan after her win in Milton Keynes and second place in Liverpool.
Harriet Knowles-Jones won the under-17 title at Parliament Hill and will be looking to continue her fine form in Birmingham after an Inter-Counties win for the Cheshire runner in that age-group last year.
» See the March 5 edition of Athletics Weekly magazine, available in shops now or digitally here, for more in-depth previews together with a timetable and Cross Challenge standings