from AAI website The Stephanie Twell bandwagon rolls on. At the weekend’s Antrim Council sponsored International Cross Country event at Greenmount, the triple European Junior Champion provided a masterclass in race control to take the honours and make amends for her 6th position in last year’s Stormont event.
While the 19 year-old Aldershot athlete may not particularly relish continually being compared with Paula Radcliffe in her early years, the linkages are clearly evident. In 2008 she dominated the World and European Junior scene and Saturday’s victory, which was her third in the McCain Challenge series, showed that further success is inevitable, bar injuries. From the gun Twell appeared to control a large leading group which included last year’s bronze medallist Deirdre Byrne, Scotland’s Freya Murray and classy American, Emily Brown. Stephanie showed no sign of a pre-race stomach problem when she suddenly split the field at halfway with some determined front running.
However, Ireland’s Byrne fought back gamely in the last 400 metres, forcing Twell to up the tempo in order to maintain her lead in a sprint finish. She crossed the line a mere one second ahead of her rival.
Afterwards the affable Twell said she liked the new undulating course which had provided her with an opportunity to blow away the Christmas cobwebs. She said she loved racing frequently and was keen to return to the Province next year. Her next outing will be at Saturday’s Edinburgh international.
2009 will certainly be a landmark year for this most exciting of athletes as she makes the tough transition to senior athletics and the World Championships in Berlin. Byrne, who came so close to upsetting the formbook, was delighted with her run and said she would be competing in the upcoming Irish Indoors at the Odyssey.
The Women’s Race was again the highlight of what was generally regarded as a highly successful promotion at this new venue. However, there was drama in the Men’s 10k event when Commonwealth Champion, Boniface Kiprop, lost a shoe at 4 miles thereby losing valuable seconds to Ethiopia’s Jida Merga and surprise contender, Andrew Lemoncello of Scotland.
Having recovered the shoe Kiprop made the fatal mistake of closing the gap on the leaders too quickly. This left him ill-prepared to fend off an attack from the Ethiopian 10,000 metres champion in the last 400 metres. At the line Merga had two seconds to spare over a disgruntled Kiprop who bluntly stated that the result would have been different had it not been for his mishap. Best of the local competitors was N I Champion Brian Campbell in 16th place.
There was close competition in many of the 10 age group events which featured potential future stars from all parts of the UK and Ireland.
In the junior men’s race, Michael Williams (Leeds City AC) took advantage of some absentees to record a fine win. The 19 year old was 50th in the McCain UK Cross Challenge in Liverpool but put in a vastly improved display for a career-best result in 17:39. Adam Bitchell (Carmarthan Harriers) was five seconds adrift in second, with third-placed Eoin Rowan (Donore Harriers) a further two seconds back.
Williams said: “I just eased away from the field after the first lap. I knew there quite a few good people in there, quite a few missing too. I’ve been injured for the last year, so I didn’t really know how I’d run. I’ve been cross raining for the past year, so I’ve been quite fit. I didn’t run at all well at Liverpool, but then I didn’t think I’d run that well here. I just felt good on the day.”
In the junior women’s/U17 women’s race, Louise Small (Aldershot, Farnham & District) was an impressive winner, kicking clear from U17 entrant Ciara Mageen (City of Lisburn) in the closing stages, with another U17 athlete Beth Carter (Invicta East Kent AC) taking third.
Afterwards, Small said: “It was tricky out there. Ciara gave me a good run and I just broke away with the last kilometre to go. I felt strong the whole way. I’m now looking for selection for the World Cross, so that’s my main aim for the cross country season really. We really trained hard over Christmas, every day apart from Christmas day.”
In the remaining McCain UK Cross Challenge races, there were victories for Jonathan Hopkins (Bridgend AC) in the U17 men’s race, Grant Muir (Giffnock North) in the U15 boys race, Ciara Hewson (Mullingar Harriers) in the U15 girls race, Padraig Moran (Mullingar Harriers) in the U13 boys race and Linda Conroy (Mullingar Harriers) in the U13 girls race.
Official results are available on www.niathletics.org and full race photos will be uploaded to the Photo Gallery website.
Leading Results –
1 Imane Merga (Ethiopia) 27:32
2 Boniface Kiprop (Uganda) 27:34
3 Andrew Lemoncello (Scotland) 27:49
4 Jean Ndayisenga (Burundi) 28:08
5 Irba Lakhal (France) 28:21
6 Gareth Raven (England) 28:24
1 Stephanie Twell (England) 18:25
2 Deirdre Byrne (Ireland) 18:26
3 Freya Murray (Scotland) 18:32
4 Emily Brown (USA) 18:35
5 Rosemary Ryan (Ireland) 18:44
6 Maria McCambridge (Ireland) 18:53