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Avery leads challenge to Africans at Antrim

By Brian Hill

Top European cross country runners Kate Avery and Fionnualla McCormack will be challenging no less than six African athletes in the Greenmount Cross Country International tomorrow.

This is probably the highest calibre field in the 39th year of the event but who will cross the line first after 5.6k of heavy underfoot conditions is still very much up for debate.

All eyes will be on Great Britain's Avery who is fresh from her emphatic victory in the Great Edinburgh race a week ago. The 24- year-old European silver medallist is in top form and may fancy her chances at Antrim.

However, Rio Olympics bound McCormack is also enjoying a successful season and will be hoping to hang on to Avery who defeated her by only four seconds in Edinburgh.

The Irish woman has won twice before at Greenmount and will be planning to use her local knowledge to good effect.

However the African challenge is as formidable as ever. This includes last year's winner Birtukan Fente Alemu of Ethiopia, who had a huge 16 seconds winning gap over Steph Twell.

Also racing is the 2014 winner Mimi Belete of Bahrain who was a finalist in last year's the World 5,000 metres final.

The field will also include World Cross Country bronze medallists Belaynesh Olijira of Ethiopia and team-mate Etagegu Wolde.

A favourite in the Men's 8K race may be easier to predict given the exceptional form shown by Uganda's Thomas Ayeko over the past three years.

The 23-year-old was a clear winner both in 2013 and last year. Thomas is in good form as shown by his 5th place in the Great North run last September behind winner Mo Farah.

Age group races commence at 11 am at Greenmount with International events from 2.15pm.

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