Avery and McCormack take on African Challenge at Greenmount
15 January 2016
Top European cross country runners Kate Avery and Fionnuala McCormack will be challenging no less than 6 African athletes in the Antrim Cross Country International on Saturday in a fixture which is now in its 39th year. The calibre of the quality field this time is probably the highest ever although the winner will be hard to predict given the very heavy underfoot conditions over a 5.6 K course which can make predictions something of a lottery.
All eyes will be on GB's Kate Avery who is fresh from her emphatic victory in the Great Edinburgh race a week ago. The 24 year old European silver medallist is in top form and may fancy her chances at Antrim given that the energy sapping conditions will be even more testing than Edinburgh.
However Rio Olympics bound McCormack is also enjoying a successful season and will be hoping to hang on to Avery who defeated her by only 4 secs in Edinburgh. The Irish woman has won twice before at Greenmount and will be planning to use her local knowledge to good effect. A third European hoping to be in the mix also is newly crowned European U23 Champion Louise Carton of Belgium.
However the Europeans will be fully tested at Greenmount as the African challenge is as formidable as ever. This includes last year's winner Birtukan Fente Alemu of Ethiopia who had a huge 16 secs winning gap over runner up Steph Twell. Also racing is the 2014 winner Mimi Belete of Bahrain who was a finalist in last year's the World 5,000 metres final. The field will also include World Cross Country bronze medallists Belaynesh Olijira of Ethiopia and team mate Etagegu Wolde.
A favourite in the Men's 8K race may be easier to predict given the exceptional form shown by Uganda's Thomas Ayeko over the past 3 years. The 23 year old was a clear winner both in 2013 and last year while in 2014 he miscalculated his sprint finish to lose by just 2 secs to Kenya's Japhet Korir. Thomas is in good form as shown by his 5th place in the Great North run last September behind winner Mo Farah.
Other athletes who will be fighting for rostrum places include Ethiopia's Aweke Ayalew who could be a real threat following his 10th place in last year's World Cross Country. The field also includes Yemaneberham Crippa of Italy who recently successfully defended his
European Junior Cross Country title in France.
Age group races commence at 11.30am at Greenmount with International events from 2.15pm.