Saucony English National Cross Country Championships: preview

After missing a season due to Covid-19, the Saucony English National Cross Country Championship returns to where it was due to take place in 2021.

The event will be staged at Parliament Hill Fields, London this Saturday – the 17th time a national race has been held at the venue. Some describe the venue as the home of cross country and it certainly is a testing course no matter what the conditions are like.

A good entry has been received – the senior men’s race has the biggest  with 3,027 while 1475 senior women have entered. The younger age groups also have good numbers with both under 13 age groups 500 plus. A total of 7,960 runners have been entered in the 10 races due to take place.

Senior women – preview:

In the senior women’s event, the Northern, Southern, and BUCs champions are entered for the 8k race. Northern champion Eleanor Bolton (Ribble Valley Harriers) was ranked number one last year as an U23 at 5k and took 6th last month at the BMC indoor 5000m, plus has two comparable length cross country races under her belt this year. One of these was the World Athletics Northern Ireland International where only one minute separated the top nine and she placed 4th to Southern Champion Jessica Gibbon’s 7th.

Jessica Gibbon (Reading AC) took the Southern title this year for the second time – she also won the Southern XC in 2020 at this year’s venue Parliament Hill. This year Jessica won by almost a minute ahead of Niamh Brown (Aldershot, Farnham & District) and Sarah Astin (Belgrave, Geoff Watkin) who was hot on Niamh’s heels – let’s see what happens on Saturday.

Jessica represented England at the Belgium Cross Cup event last week, along with Sophie Tarver (Wirral/Loughborough Students, Bill Foster) who is also entered into the Nationals. Kirsty Walker (Reading AC/Loughborough Students, Rob McKim) won the BUCS cross country at the start of the month but generally runs shorter distances – winning the BUCS indoor 3000m last weekend.

Very experienced on the Road, Lily Partridge (Birchfield Harriers) is, however, no stranger to the podium at the National Cross Country – taking bronze in 2014 and winning the following two years. Also entered is 2020’s second placed Bronwen Owen (Leeds City/Leeds Beckett Uni, Andrew Henderson) and Georgia Taylor Brown who won the Junior race in 2014 and more recently won a gold and silver Olympic medal in triathlon.

Senior men – preview:

The Senior men have a full complement of regional and BUCs winners entered in the 12k race on Saturday.

Hugo Milner (Derby) won the northern championships in Pontefract as well as coming first in Leg 1 of both the Cross Country and Road Relays late last year. He represented England at the start of this year at the Elgoibar Cross-Country Race. Joining him will be Southern Champion Andy Coley-Maud (Guildford & Godalming, Allison Benton) and Midlands Champion Dougie Musson (Notts AC / Nottingham Trent Uni, Luke Gunn) after a couple of seasons concentrating on the road. Fellow Elgoibar team mate Will Battershill (Erme Valley, Luke Gunn) is the 2022 BUCS champions and won the steeplechase last summer at both the England Athletics championships and the Manchester International.

Others to watch are Zak Mahamed (Southampton, Idris Hamud) who won the Senior Men’s race for England at the Home Countries Cross Country International in Belfast – and team mates Hugo Milner and Calum Johnson (Gateshead Harriers, John Stephenson) who contributed to the team win for England. Also pulling on the England vest was Mahamed Mahamed who has just returned from the Belgium Cross Cup with a second place.

We also have two Tokyo Olympians entered: Ben Connor (Derby, Steve Vernon) – who won this event in 2017, and double triathlon medallist Alex Yee.

Add to the mix Adam Hickey (Southend, Eamonn Martin) – with a win at this event in 2018 and an impressive selection of top five placings in other years, Emile Cairess who equalled Mo Farah’s 10km record last month and aiming to improve on two previous national silvers, and 2019’s bronze medallist Linton Taylor (Leeds City/Leeds Beckett Uni ) and it’s set to be an exciting race!

More information

The women were first to hold a Championship at Parliament Hill in 1950. The men started using the venue in 1957 and from then on there have been 14 Championships held at regular intervals. In 2003 the men and women finally held their Championships on the same day at Parliament Hill, the organisations having amalgamated in the 90s. Over the years various age group races were added – however it wasn’t until 2003 that the 10 event format was introduced and all age groups competed on the same day at the same venue.

News from Parliament Hill is that in the gales last weekend 40 trees came down; however an inspection has found none of these were on the course. The going is bound to be heavy but to help the course to recover a team of shire horses will be brought in to rake the route of the course afterwards.

Follow the action

If you cannot make it to Parliament Hill then why not view via Live Streaming by 247.TV and hosted on the England Athletics YouTube channel from 11am.

Timetable

11:00am – Under 17 Women (5k)
11:25am – Under 15 Boys (4k)
11:45am – Under 13 Girls (3k)
12:05pm – Under 17 Men (6k)
12:30pm – Under 13 Boys (3k)
12:45pm – Under 15 Girls (4k)
1:05pm – Junior Women (6k)
1:35pm – Senior Women (8k)
2:20pm – Junior Men (10k)
3:00pm – Senior Men (12k)