There was a mix of new and familiar faces on the top step of the podium at the first race in the British Athletics Mountain Running Challenge, and with even more at stake in round two this weekend, the competition is set to be hot in the Lake District on Saturday 14 June.
A dominant winner on the up and down course at Witton Park in race one, Sarah Tunstall heads to Whinlatter Forest, Keswick, as favourite in the senior women’s race, and she also headlines the England teams taking part in the home international event incorporated into the fixture. The event also hosts the GB & NI trial for the European Mountain Running Championships, which take place in Gap, France next month, upping the stakes even more.
Tunstall is a former medallist at European level, and given her current good form will surely be targeting a similar result; but first she must secure her place on the GB & NI team. Joining her in the England team are Emma Clayton (coach: Andrew Henderson) and Katie Walshaw (Katherine Farquhar), and those two ladies are likely to pose Tunstall the biggest threat on the day. Despite still being on the comeback trail after injury, Clayton is of course last year’s World Championship silver medallist.
In the men’s race, Mountain Challenge race one winner Shaun Dixon (Ben Noad) is absent, paving the way for Chris Smith and Tom Addison to stake a claim for the Senior Home International title. Whilst Smith is a seasoned senior international, Addison’s main goal will be to secure a place on the GB & NI senior team, having not represented Britain
since his junior days in 2007 & 2008.
Those two men are the star names from an England point of view, but the favourite tag probably hangs around the neck of Scot Robbie Simpson. The Deeside man made the top 20 at the last up and down edition for the European Championships, and despite being just 22 has bags of championship experience.
In the junior races, race one winners Max Wharton (Mark Goldie) and Lauren McNeil will be looking to make it two wins out of two, and consolidate their spots at the top of the Mountain Running challenge standings.