By Owen Morgan
Welsh athletes will be out in force at this weekend’s British Athletics Cross Challenge event in Liverpool.
Sefton Park will host the third leg of this year’s series along with the Great Britain team trials for the European Cross Country Championships in Portugal next month.
Leading the Welsh challenge in the senior women’s race will be Cardiff’s Charlotte Arter, who won the opening leg of the Cross Challenge in her home city last month.
Arter will be hoping to emulate last year’s win in Liverpool, which also secured her a GB place for the 2018 European Cross Country Championships in Holland, where she finished seventh and helped the British senior women to a team silver medal.
Joining her will be Cardiff team-mate and current Welsh Cross Country Champion Jenny Nesbitt, who finished second to Arter in the capital last month.
Arter and Nesbitt recently finished seventh and ninth respectively at the prestigious Cross Atapuerca international event in Portugal, where Arter was the first European finisher in a field featuring a number of world class athletes.
Also taking part in the senior race will be Leeds City AC athlete Bronwen Owen, who impressed after stepping up from the junior ranks to finish runner-up at the second leg of this year’s Cross Challenge in Milton Keynes.
Another junior hoping to make the step up in age group is Cari Hughes, who last year won the under-20 race in Liverpool and went on to finish 13th individually at the Euros in Holland, helping the GB women’s under-20 team win gold.
On the men’s side, Cardiff athlete Mike Ward, who recently returned to the UK after studying in America, will be keen to build on the second place he earned in the senior men’s race in Cardiff.
Ward will have plenty of familiar faces around him as he will be joined on the start line by Cardiff club mates Ciaran Lewis, Ieuan Thomas, James Hunt and Rowan Axe, who will all hope to be in the mix at the sharp end of the senior race.
Hunt and Thomas finished second and third respectively while representing Wales at the Billy Rea International in Northern Ireland earlier this month.
Meanwhile, Swansea Harrier Kristian Jones will be in confident mood after finishing fifth behind Olympian Andy Butchart at the recent Scottish National Short Course Cross Country Championships, where he helped Dundee and Hawkshill to a silver medal in the team competition.
Wales will also have strong representation in the age group events, where Welsh Athletics have named teams for the Under-20 and Under-17 categories.
A strong favourite for the men’s under-20 race will be Wrexham’s Matt Willis, who has already won the first two Cross Challenge fixtures in Cardiff and Milton Keynes.
Willis is joined in the Welsh team by Oliver Barbaresi, Thames Valley Harriers; Larry Ryan and Morgan James, Cardiff Athletics; Elliot Lawrence, Swansea Harriers; and Remi Adebiyi, Newport Harriers, who reached the final of the steeplechase at the European Athletics Under-20 Championships earlier this year.
The women’s under-20 team is: Laura Wright, Hannah Jenkins, Porthcawl Runners; Katrin Higginson and Ffion Higginson, Bridgend AC; Ellie Robinson, Newport Harriers; Bronwen Stratton-Thomas, Swansea Harriers.
Wales also have strong looking teams in the under 17 section, where Menai Track and Field’s Osian Perrin, who earlier this year broke the Welsh under-17 3,000m record, will hope to feature prominently.
He is joined by club mate Mike Spill; Lloyd Sheppard and Benjamin Reynolds, Cardiff Athletics; Finley Hines, Neath Harriers and Adam Beer, Llanelli AC.
There are also two Menai Track and Field athletes in the girls’ team in the shape of Samia Jones and Boe-Celyn Jones, along with Ashleigh Williams, Swansea Harriers; Aimee Callow, Cardiff Archers; Moli Lyons, Cardiff Athletics and Rheagan Edwards, Deeside AAC.
The Liverpool event will feature a number of other Welsh competitors of all ages taking part in a full timetable of races from Under-11 upwards.