GB & NI team at European Cross Country Champs today

Emelia Gorecka

Emelia Gorecka (handicap MINUS 0.7) will attempt to win a fourth consecutive under 20 women’s medal at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, today.

The 19 year old has finished third, first and second at the last three championships and is hopeful of ending her junior career by regaining the title she won in Velenje, Slovenia in 2011.


She said: “I’d like to go back to first and end on a high. I think I’m in good shape and I have lots of experience from the last few years; this will be my fourth European Championship as a junior which not many people are able to do.”


The GB & NI senior teams will be led by Andy Vernon (handicap MINUS 6.1) and Gemma Steel (handicap MINUS 1.9), who were standout winners of their respective trial races at the Liverpool Cross Challenge and will be contenders for individual medals today.


Vernon is joined in the senior men’s team by Tom Farrell (handicap MINUS 4.4), who finished fourth in this event last year, while Steel will line up alongside Julia Bleasdale (handicap MINUS 0.4), who finished eighth in both the 5,000m and 10,000m at the London Olympic Games last summer, as well as former world junior 1500m champion Steph Twell (handicap MINUS 1.1).


Both under 23 teams are harbouring ambitions of team medals. Charlotte Purdue (handicap 1.3), twice a European Cross Country Championships medallist as an under 20, returns to the GB & NI cross country team following a two and a half year absence and is joined by Kate Avery (MINUS 0.3), who finished third at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in the USA this season.


Meanwhile Jonny Hay (MINUS 3.9), second overall in the senior men’s race in Liverpool, will go in the under 23 men’s race alongside 2011 under 20 silver medallist Richard Goodman (handicap 4.4), who returned to form this autumn after two years out with injury - finishing second under 23 at the trial.


Jonathan Davies (handicap MINUS 4.5) has been the dominant under 20 this winter with victories at the Bristol Cross Challenge and against a top international field in Soria, Spain. The European junior 5000m bronze medallist was a comfortable winner at the trial in Liverpool and will be looking for a third consecutive individual medal for GB & NI in the under 20 men’s race today.


Every member of the team came home with a medal from Budapest in 2012 as GB & NI topped the medal table with a total of ten medals and team leader Neil Black, British Athletics Performance Director, is looking for a repeat performance this time around.


Black said: “As a team we have a great record at these championships in recent years and I’m confident that the athletes selected will continue that record in Belgrade.


“The importance of these championships is reflected in the fact that we have selected full teams with a good mix of experienced world-class athletes and younger developing athletes. The team will have a great chance of success and will be able to take away valuable experience.”


Chris Thompson (handicap MINUS 5.5) was initially selected as part of the senior men’s team but withdrew after selection due to illness. Following an earlier decision to select reserves within their relevant age group, Thompson has been replaced by first senior reserve Frank Tickner (handicap MINUS 3.4).


Full GB & NI team:


Senior Men

Tom Farrell, Keith Gerrard (MINUS 3.8), Adam Hickey (MINUS 4.5), Charlie Hulson (MINUS 3.8), Frank Tickner, Andy Vernon.


Senior Women

Julia Bleasdale, Katie Brough (MINUS 0.2), Lauren Deadman (MINUS 0.1), Lauren Howarth (MINUS 0.8) Gemma Steel, Stephanie Twell.


Under 23 Men

Luke Caldwell (MINUS 4.8), Callum Hawkins (MINUS 4.7), Jonathan Hay, Richard Goodman, Jack Goodwin (MINUS 3.2), Dewi Griffiths (MINUS 4.1).


Under 23 Women

Jessica Andrews (1.3), Rhona Auckland (1.3),Kate Avery, Lily Partridge (MINUS 0.1),Charlotte Purdue, Laura Weightman (MINUS 1.3).


Under 20 Men

Michael Callegari (MINUS 4.0), Jack Crabtree (MINUS 3.2), Jonathan Davies, Zak Miller (MINUS 2.8), Matthew Shirling (MINUS 2.9), Alex Short (0.5).


Under 20 Women

Bobby Clay (0.4), Jessica Gibbon (3.6), Emelia Gorecka, Amy Griffiths (1.1), Georgia Taylor-Brown (11.6), Lydia Turner (2.2).

All the action from today's championships can be seen live on BBC 2 from 1200hrs

Good Luck Team GB!