ATHLETICS: Leeds City defend their men’s team title in today’s National Cross Country Championships at Parliament Hill, London. Medallists for the past nine years and winners on five of those occasions, they are looking to extend that remarkable sequence at the 125th running of the race, writes Roger Norton.
They were surprisingly beaten at this year’s Northern Championship by Altrincham but on that occasion they were without James Walsh who was winning the Midlands title for a record-breaking sixth time. He competes today for Leeds and is a contender for an individual medal after narrowly missing out last year when he finished fourth.
James Wilkinson, runner-up in the Northern, is also a strong contender and so Leeds should have a great start in defence of their title. Simon Deakin has had a superb season and will be hoping to have shaken off the effects of a recent illness. He has a remarkable record to maintain, being the only Leeds athlete to have won medals on all nine occasions. Alan Buckley, who missed the Northern due to illness, also returns to boost Leeds’s chances.
Top Leeds woman Susan Partridge is away in Colarado training for the London Marathon but Hallamshire have two contenders for individual honours, Hatti Dean and Lizzie Adams. Dean already has a full set of individual medals in this event, runner-up last year, third the year before and gold medallist in 2009 on the Parliament Hill course.
She will be hard to beat in today’s race. On her return from her third trip of the winter to Kenya, Dean demonstrated her form with a comfortable win in an international race in Belgium a fortnight ago.
Adams has been in superb form this season and an outstanding run in the Northern, which she won with plenty to spare. With Dean and Adams leading the way, Hallamshire will be looking to get among the medals in the team race with Bingley also challenging.
In the younger age groups Jenny Walsh (Spenborough) and Bronwen Owen (Scarborough) should do well following their runaway wins in the Northern junior and under-15 races respectively.