Wilkinson books his place for Portugal

Leeds City's James Wilkinson had a superb run to finish second in the McCain Cross Challenge in Liverpool on Saturday.

The winner was Andy Vernon (Aldershot) but 20-year-old Wilkinson finished just one second behind. Wilkinson was easily the top under-23 runner, finishing well clear of his nearest rival, Ricky Stevenson (New Marske).

Wilkinson moved into contention going into the final lap, having worked his way up to the leaders. There was no doubt that the race would go down to the wire and it was Vernon's determination that eventually secured the win in 28:45.

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Vernon, who holds the National title, said afterwards that he was impressed with Wilkinson and so were many others. Having sat comfortably back in the pack over the opening laps, the Leeds runner stayed in control as he moved through the field.

"The idea was to sit and let the others do the work," he admitted. "I stayed relaxed and kicked when it mattered."

The race served as a trial for the British team to run in the European Championships in Portugal on December 12th.

Wilkinson, a student at Birmingham University, is in the enviable position of being able to decide whether to run in the senior race or the under-23 age group.

Also gaining automatic selection for the European championships was Hallamshire's Hatti Dean, runner up in the women's race.

Dean took the lead at the halfway stage but could not get away from Louise Damen (Winchester) who went away on the last lap to finish with a lead of some 80 metres.

Dean, well pleased with her performance in what was her first serious race of the winter, was a similar distance ahead of third-placed Gemma Steel (Charnwood).

Leeds City's Susan Partridge, winner of last week's Abbey Dash, ran well for 10th place.

The Thirsk 10-mile road race, which would have incorporated the Northern and Yorkshire Championships, was called off due to dangerous road conditions.

A substantial part of the course would have been on minor, untreated, roads.