McCain Cardiff Cross Challenge

The McCain Cardiff Cross Challenge took place on Sunday despite snowy conditions and travel disruption across the country.

The Bute Park based event went ahead without major disruption although some athletes didn't make the trip to Cardiff because of the adverse weather.

The event featured a Celtic International for U17, U20 and U23 athletes, An Inter-Area Match for Senior's, Schools Invitation Races and the Welsh University Cross Country Championships.

Cardiff Cross Senior men 2013

Dewi Griffiths (pictured centre) keeps warm before the men's race. (pic by Al Jones)

Racing began with the U17 Women's event which also featured the first Celtic International of the programme. The Irish team were confident of Siofra O'Flaherty’s talent before the race began and weren't disappointed as she ran away from a competitive field which included Scotland's Gillian Black (Victoria Park) who won the Great Edinburgh International earlier this month, and home grown talent Olivia Gwynn (Swansea Harriers).

The U17 Men took their turn next with Wales this time providing the outright favourite. Jac Hopkins (Swansea Harriers) won in at U15 level in Cardiff last year and since then had notched up victories in Bristol and Liverpool before returning to Cardiff to lead the Welsh U17 Men's team. Jac never looked troubled on the flat and fast ice laden course and went on to take victory by twenty seconds.

Ellie Atkinson (Cardiff AAC) stepped up an age group to make her debut as an U20 and proved her pedigree by finishing as Wales' first scorer in the Celtic International ahead of Ffion & Rhianwedd Price (Brecon AC) and Kate Seary who also moved up to U20 level.

Primary Schools Cross Country

The Primary School Girls race gets underway

Liam Lloyd ran impressively when the U20 Men took their turn to finish third behind Great Britain International Jonathan Davies (Reading) and Michael Callegari (Shaftesbury). Mike Ward (Cardiff AAC) was the next welsh athlete home in eleventh.

By the time the of the Senior Women’s race the temperature had risen just slightly and crowds had started to build.

Louise Damen (Winchester) was the first British finisher at the European Cross Country Championships in Budapest last December and started as clear favourite ahead of her England team mate Emily Wicks (Aldershot) and Hatti Archer (Hallamshire) who previously won in Cardiff in 2007 and 2010.

Andrea Whitcombe

Andrea Whitcombe on her way to fifth

Louise ran away from the field in the early stages with Emily and Hatti sharing the second spot for some time. Emily finally went on to take second from Hatti who returns to Cross Country racing after some time away.

Local girl Andrea Whitcombe (Swansea Harriers) was another former champion who contested the ladies race and ran strongly to finish fifth this time.

Andy Vernon Cardiff Cross Challenge

Andy Vernon pictured leading the men's race. (pic by Al Jones)

The Men's race saw two former champions go head to head with Andy Vernon (Aldershot) and Frank Tickner (Wells City) always likely to feature on the podium.

The Men's race saw two former champions go head to head with Andy Vernon (Aldershot) and Frank Tickner (Wells City) always likely to feature on the podium.

Andy pulled away from the best of the rest on the first lap with Frank suffering a shoe problem which saw him lose some distance on the leaders and work hard to get it back. Tickner did however come back to second place and even make some headway on Vernon's lead.

Further back, Dewi Griffiths (Swansea Harriers) won the Celtic International title with relative ease, finishing in sixth overall, Rowan Axe (Cardiff AAC), Jonathan Hopkins (Cardiff AAC), Phil Matthews (Swansea Harriers) and David Mountford (Liverpool) changed places before finishing in that order, in eleventh, thirteenth, fifteenth and seventeenth respectively.

The final round of the McCain Cross Challenge Series will take place within the UK Championships at Cofton Park, Birmingham on March 9th.

Pictures by Al Jones and Steve Brace.



Welsh Athletics Ltd.
Cardiff International Sports Stadium
Leckwith Road
Cardiff. CF11 8AZ.

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