Jess Judd will arguably start as the favourite in the women’s race as the British Athletics Cross Challenge continues at Sefton Park in Liverpool on Saturday (November 25).
In what is a who’s who of British cross country, Gemma Steel will be vying with Judd and others for not only victory but a spot on the British team heading to the European Cross Country Championships next month.
Judd, who represented Britain at the World Championships this summer, has made a flying start to the cross country season with wins at the opening two races in the Cross Challenge series.
Steel was second to Judd in Milton Keynes, being outsprinted in the closing stages. After a Great South Run victory, the longer distance at Liverpool (8.1km) could play into the hands of the Charnwood athlete. Steel has a great record at Sefton Park and will be looking for her fifth consecutive victory on the course.
Amongst the challengers vying to impress are Steph Twell, Lily Partridge, Verity Ockenden, Emelia Gorecka and Katrina Wootton.
Aldershot’s Twell finished sixth at the Cross Internacional de Atapuerca in Spain last week. Twell has been prepping for the trial with some time at altitude in Font Romeu and will be looking to earn a spot on the GB team.
Clubmate Partridge also opened her cross country season in Spain. She finished eighth to compliment her recent second place at the Great South Run on the roads.
Ockenden placed second in Cardiff, behind Judd and third in Milton Keynes a similar performance in Liverpool could be very rewarding for the Swansea Harrier.
Gorecka finished second to Gemma Steel back in 2014 as an under 23. This year will see the Aldershot athlete aiming to make her first senior European Cross team.
Coventry’s Wootton, who missed out on Commonwealth Games selection despite a 31:46 10km time achieved on the road, placed sixth at the second Cross Challenge in Milton Keynes.
Also amongst the leading contenders is Louise Damen. The Winchester athlete finished seventh in Milton Keynes and the extra couple of kilometres on Saturday could suit the cross country stalwart.
Elsewhere, Faye Fullerton opened up her cross country season with a second place finish in Essex League at Horseheath and followed this up with a great eight-place finish in Milton Keynes. The Havering athlete was also eighth at the English National Cross Championship in February and could be one to watch.
Other women to watch include Leeds City duo Claire Duck and Emma Clayton who have both posted good results leading into the trials at Milton Keynes (Duck, 10th) and Leeds Abbey Dash (Clayton 3rd).
Elle Vernon of Stockport Harriers is entered and after a good run on the first leg at Mansfield, she could return to Liverpool looking for a fifth European Cross Championship.
In the men’s race, last year’s winner Andrew Butchart leads the charge but amongst the strong challenger are Dewi Griffiths, Sam Stabler, Ben Connor, Andy Vernon and Jonny Hay. A full preview can be found here.