Runners from across the country headed to Liverpool at the weekend as hundreds took part in the McCain Challenge Series at Sefton Park.
Andy Vernon triumped in the men's event over 9.8km, while in an equally gripping senior women’s race, Hatti Dean saw off the challenge of Gemma Steel to take victory in the 8.1km course.
The start was delayed due to the sheer number of participants, and when it got underway, Vernon won in a time of 29 minutes and 19 seconds. This was three-time overall series champion's second successive victory in Liverpool, following his 2010 triumph, as he sealed victory on the final straight.
The McCain UK Cross Country Challenge takes in five key fixtures across Britain, throughout the autumn and winter season. The five races allow competitive opportunities for athletes looking to post qualification marks for the forthcoming European Cross Country Championships in Slovenia.
Rob Connor, from Liverpool City Council Sport & Recreation Services, told JMU Journalism: “It was a rip-roaring success this year. It’s in its tenth year and taken on the status of European trials and it’s an event we really like.”
Second and third places in the men’s race went to Mark Draper (29:22) and Ryan McLeod (29:24) as both earned a place in the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team for Slovenia, alongside Vernon.
McLeod said after the race: “I’m really happy with my performance, obviously disappointed not to win it with being so close. I came here and the aim was to try and get in the team and I did that.”
Gemma Steel was full of confidence going into the race, having won the Bristol leg, and along with Hatti Dean built up a large lead on the rest of the chasing pack, but it was Dean who took the victory in a time of 27 minutes and five seconds, with Steel clocking 27:09.
Third place was awarded to Freya Murray even though she and Hannah Walker were credited with the same time of 27:32.
The junior men’s and women’s events were won by Aldershot, Farnham and District duo Jonny Hay and Emelia Gorecka.
The five locations for the race series are Bristol, Liverpool, Cardiff, Antrim, and the finale is in Birmingham in March next year.
By Scott Girling-Heathcote
More JMU Journalism stories
Hatti Dean builds up a lead over Gemma Steel; The men's race gets underway; Vernon triumphs