Team England will send four strong squads to the annual Home Countries international at Mansfield’s Berry Hill Park this Saturday, as they seek to replicate their resounding success from the 2009 event, writes Nicola Bamford.
Hosts England took victory in three of the four team competitions last year and will face Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the match that was revived in Edinburgh two years’ ago after an eighteen-year absence.
Despite the World cross-country Championships taking place the following day in Poland, England will still produce some of the best senior and junior athletes these shores have to offer.
In the junior women’s team, national under-20 Champion Joanne Harvey leads the way for the English Lions. The 20-year-old Exeter Harrier is in fine form following injury last year and will be joined by Taunton AC’s Naomi Taschimowitz; the 20-year-old who was 4th behind her in Leeds.
Laura Parker (19, Wells City Harriers) and Eleanor Wimshurst (18, Bristol and West AC); who were 6th in the national and UK Championships inc. World XC trials, respectively, complete the team.
The junior men’s squad consists of national 6th-placer, Matthew Jackson (Warrington AC) and the 20-year-old who finished one place adrift; Richard Peters (Bristol and West AC).
Sixth and 7th, respectively, in the UK Championships, Andrew Combs (18, Tonbridge AC) and Thomas Bishop (18, Derby AC) complete the outfit.
British international Hatti Dean starts as a hot favourite to take victory. The 28-year-old Hallamshire Harrier was third in the national and should make light work of the competition. Charnwood’s AC’s Hannah Whitmore (26); fresh from 4th in the UK Championships, will provide solid support.
Natalie Gray (22, Medway and Maidstone) and Gemma Steel (24, Charnwood AC); who placed 9th in the national and 11th in the UK Championships, respectively, also compete.
James Walsh will lead the senior men’s squad. The 28-year-old Leeds City Harrier was recently 6th in the UK Championships and will be backed up by Darren Deed (31, Bedford and County AC); the man who was 8th in the same event and who placed 5th in this event last year.
Tom Humphries (25, Cannock and Staffs AC), who was 9th in the UK Championships and 21-year-old Norwich athlete; Ashley Harrell also compete.