Britain’s Stephanie Twell is firm favourite to take individual honours in tomorrow’s IAAF International Cross Country at a new parkland course at CAFRE, Greenmount Campus in Antrim.
The event is in its amazing 32nd year and is supported by Antrim Borough Council and Mizuno.
The 19-year-old Aldershot athlete is currently on a high following her third successive European Junior victory in Brussels just two weeks ago.
This win came as no surprise to athletics enthusiasts especially following earlier victories in the McCain Cross Challenge Series at Gateshead and Liverpool.
What did raise eyebrows however was the inspirational effect which Twell had on her British team mates who then proceeded to finish in the next five places.
Twell will remember 2008 as the year when she carried all before her at international Junior level.
She also made a successful transition to Senior competition - an achievement always fraught with difficulty.
Main opposition to Twell should be Midlands-based Emily Pidgeon who was fourth finisher in Brussels and is a former European Junior 5000m champion.
Also vying for the top position will be Emily Brown of the US who was 18th in Edinburgh’s World Championships in March and Russia’s Victoria Trushenko who finished 11th in Brussels.
Top Irish challengers should be Deidre Byrne, who was a surprise third in last year’s race, plus her namesake Linda, who was 10th in Brussels.
In the Men’s 9K event, honours should go to Uganda’s Boniface Kiprop who makes a welcome return to the p rovince after finishing 5th at Stormont in 2003. Kiprop, who is still only 23, took the Commonwealth 10,000m title in Melbourne in 2006.
Kiprop will be challenged by the current Ethiopian 10,000m champion Imane Merga who was 7th in the World Junior Cross Country last year.
Key local athletes to the fore will be NI champion Brian Campbell, Paddy Hamilton and Stephen Scullion.
The racing programme starts at 11.00am with international races from 2.00pm.