A packed schedule awaits as the British and Irish Masters Cross Country International returns
After a three-year gap, the Masters International Cross Country returns on Saturday (Nov 12) as the home nations battle it out for supremacy.
Ireland are the hosts in Santry Demesne, on the outskirts of Dublin, where they will take on athletes from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in events from the M35 and W35 age group up to the M75 and W75s. The event was last held on this course in 2015 and also previously staged there in 2010.
The most recent edition of the international was held on Aintree racecourse in 2019, where England won the lion’s share of individual and team titles. Ireland look poised to pose a strong challenge this time, however, with England perhaps not as strong as in some previous encounters and the cost of close to £500 per athlete putting off some from competing.
England’s Angela Copson has the most wins by a woman athlete at 12, all achieved consecutively. She first won the W60 title in 2008, which she defended for the next three years before enjoying five victories as a W65, then three wins in the W70 age group.
If she wins the W70 this time, it will be a record 13th for a man or woman but it will be a hard task against athletes five years younger and now in a different age group.
11.00am Women 65 plus and Men 65 plus 6km
11.50am Women W35 to W60 6km
12.35pm Men M50 to M60 8km
1.20pm Men M35-45 8km
2.00pm Open race 6km & 8km
M65 age group
The overwhelming favourite is Scotland’s Alastair Walker, who won the previous two races in the M60 category in 2018 and 2019. This year he has smashed world records on the road and track and won the M65 World 10km title by five minutes. He is also one of the nominees in the AW Readers’ Choice Masters award.
If he wins, he will be the first ever Scottish champion in the age group.
His nearest challenger may well be Wales’ David James, who ran a 13:33 5000m and 8:20 for two miles back in 1980.
This section debuted in 1998 and England won the first 16 contests and the last four, with Ireland winning two in between. England have also won 16 individual titles and they should win again with a strong quartet headed by trials winner Kevin Newman and Dave Butler, who was fourth – just 13 seconds back – and second M65 in Aintree three years ago behind Nigel Gates.
Eugene Moynihan won the Irish trials.
M70 age group
Terry Eakin, who has also won a M65 title, defends and his Northern Ireland team have won this event individually four times compared to England’s 14, but he may be pressed three years into his age group.
On the team front, England will be going for their 10th successive victory as they have won 17 out of 18 and their only loss was in 2010 (to Ireland) for an event that debuted in 2002. They have a strong quartet with possibly Stuart Thorp, third in the World Masters event, their most likely individual challenger.
Martin Kerr won the Irish trials but the best bet may be Scotland’s Tony Martin, who was fourth in the M65 event in 2019 and won the European masters Half-Marathon title in 2019.
M75 age group
England have won five out of six of the oldest age group, which is the newest in the event as it first appeared in 2014, with Wales their only conquerers in 2018.
Richard Mullins won the Irish trial but only seconds ahead of Michael Kiely and Sean McMullen.
Peter Giles, a top guitarist from the sixties who played with Robert Fripp of King Crimson fame, defends his individual title and he won the English trials, while Scotland have a strong duo with 2019 runner-up Bobby Young and their trials winner Norman Baillie.
Wales have Dic Evans, who took part in the first Championships in 1988 and won the M45 race in 1991.
W65 age group
England have only won one of the previous five team contests and Scotland are defending champions. Overall England have won eight of 14 since it was first staged in 2006.
Sue Haslam won the English trials from Anna Garnier for an event they have won individually 11 times out of 14 in the past.
Ireland have big hopes for their trials winner Pauline Moran, who won the W60 title in 2018 and 2019.
W70 age group
England have won four out of six in the oldest age group which was introduced in 2014. Angela Copson is now in the W75 age group but competes for the English W70 team, having won individual gold every year from 2008.
Irish trials winner Eileen Kenny (just two seconds up on Margaret Glavey) won multiple golds at the Euro Masters road event in May and should challenge. So, too, should 2019 W65 champion Ann White and another previous W65 winner Yuko Gordon, who competed for Hong Kong in the Olympic Marathon in 1984 and won the English trials and W70 race in this year’s London Marathon.
W75 age group
There is no team contest, with very few entries, but there are individual medals up for grabs.
June Comiskey won the Irish trials unopposed and Paulne Rich is the sole English runner.
W35 age group
It looks like no-one compares to the overwhelming Irish trials winner Sinead O’Connor, who left the opposition a minute back. She also won the Irish senior road 10km title in April.
Yvonne McNairn won the Scottish trials and should place well, but an even better challenger may be Jennifer Wetton, a former Scottish Marathon champion who has run 34:41 for 10km this Autumn, while Wales have a good pairing in Lucy Marland and Donna Morris.
Northern Ireland’s trials winner Cath O’Connor should also place highly.
England have only won one of the last five team contests, though they have won 19 out of 32 overall. Ireland, however have won 10, are defending champions and have also won nine individual crowns.
W40 age group
England go for their 11th team win in a row here and have won 25 out of the 32 events. They have a much stronger team here than in the W35s and will be led by trials winner Juliet Potter, who is a former Midlands senior champion and finished 22nd in the UK Inter Counties Championships this year.
Dympna Ryan is the Irish trials winner, though Euro Masters medallist Michelle Kenny could also place highly. 2019 W35 fourth placer Kate O’Neill, who ran a 17:11.42 5000m this summer and competed for Ireland as a junior in the European Cross Country Championships, should also be in the mix. Expect Northern Ireland’s trials winner Alison Stocks to feature heavily, as well.
W45 age group
England have won 20 out of 25 and the last four for an event that debuted in 1995.
Christine Lathwell won the English trials, surprisingly defeating eight-time champion Claire Martin, who won this race in 2019.
Natasha Evans won the Irish trial and should challenge for individual medals, while the Scottish pair of Avril Mason and Carol Parsons are other likely contenders.
W50 age group
England have won the last ten stagings in the category (28 out of 31 overall) – their most successful age group for either men or women – and they have a solid quartet led by trials winner Cleo Perry. Mandy Vernon, fourth in that trial race, is a former W45 winner.
Annette Kealy, a W35 winner on this course in 2010, won the last W50 contest in Aintree and she comfortably won the Irish trials.
Northern Ireland’s Elisoa Crawford should place highly, judging by her two-minute trials win.
W55 age group
This event debuted in 1998 and England have won 21 of 22 for the highest percentage of victories, their one loss being to Ireland to 2014.
However, their team is not their strongest and just one athlete contested the English trial. It’s even possible that they may be short of a full team.
There is still strength, though, in defending champion Clare Elms who previously won four individual golds and 11 team titles in her 11 appearances.
Sarah Avery, usually more at home on the road, recently won a W45 BMAF relay team title.
Maura Dervin won the Irish trials while Northern Ireland trials winner Deborah Rushman is another likely medal contender.
Sue Ridley, who won the W35 race in 2004, features in the Scottish team.
W60 age group
England have won 16 out of the 18 times this category has been held since 2002 and Monica Williamson leads their team, 12 years after she won the W50 title on this course, but the bigger names come from elsewhere.
Niamh O’Sullivan, who won the outright women’s race as a W40 between 2004 and 2006, won the Irish trials by almost five minutes.
Six-time gold medallist and multiple world record-setter Fiona Matheson heads the Scottish team, while her compatriot – world 800m record-holder Yvonne Crilly – also contests the event.
M50 age group
Tim Hartley has seven race wins – second to only Mike Hagar among the men – and defends his title. Though now aged 54, and at the top of the age group, he has an excellent chance. Though he wasn’t officially listed in the English trial result he ran in the adjacent North Midlands League and beat all English M40 and M45 trial runners. He was also a minute faster than official trials winner Simon Baines, the World Masters Half-Marathon champion.
Northern Ireland produced a shock with a team win in 2019 after England had won the previous six and 27 out of 32 in total. The 2019 runner-up Eamon White won the Northern Irish trials and should again place highly.
Vivian Foley won the Irish trial, while Wales’ Huw Evans is a regular high placer.
M55 age group
This age group is relatively new, first being run in 1995. England have 19 team wins and six losses.
Their team is led by defending champion and reigning BMAF champion Andrew Leach, but also includes former M50 winner Ben Reynolds and Jon James.
Ireland’s team is headed by trials winner Pauric McKinney, who won the M50 title in Dublin in 2015, while Scotland’s James Austin should place highly.
M60 age group
The former M50 and M55 winner Tommy Payne won the Irish trials narrowly from Martin McLaughlin and should lead a strong home challenge.
England won the last two editions but lost the previous four before that and have won 22 of 31 editions. They have a good team led by new M60 Steve Watmough.
Jeff Farquhar leads the Scottish team while Wales’ Ifan Lloyd, a regular medallist, should also be in the hunt again.
M35 age group
Mark McKinstry of Northern Ireland won the last two events but isn’t entered this time. Ireland have won 10 of the 13 titles on offer and should be led by Trials winner John Shine.
England have a poor record in this age group, having won only two of both individual and senior titles on offer.
Adam Stokes won the English trial, while Ed Chuck won the BMAF title and made the top ten of the Surrey League recently. The other athlete who bypassed the trial, Reading Half winner James Connor, should also be to the fore.
Scotland won the last edition in Liverpool and they will be led by fairly new runner Chris Loudon, who has primarily raced parkruns.
Wales’ Luke Northall and Matt Edmonds should also both place highly.
M40 age group
England have usually dominated the team event, winning 25 on the trot between 1990 and 2014, but Ireland have won three of the last five. Jamie Gahan won the Irish trial and the home team looks stronger than England, who will be led by Trials winner Robert Warner.
Scotland’s Grant Baillie looks a potential high placer.
M45 age group
England have won team gold 28 times out of 32, including the last three, and have a strong squad sextet all capable of a top dozen place.
Paul Featherstone won the English trials though Jan Bailey, who missed the trials, may have the better chance.
Ireland, who won in 2016, have a strong duo in trials winner Brian Maher and runner-up Declan Reed.
Northern Ireland’s trials winner Brian McElvenna should also be near the front and he ran 2:27:07 in the Berlin Marathon, while Scotland’s Andrew Davis and Wales’ Simon Lewis are other potential medallists.
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