Big guns in Greenmount cross country running
Thomas Ayeko and Steph Twell will be hoping for repeat victories in the big Greenmount IAAF Cross Country International at Antrim on Saturday, which this year incorporates the Home Countries International (first event 1.20pm).
Ugandan Ayeko (23) will be confident of emulating his 10K victory of two years ago when he defeated Kenyan David Bett, especially as his key rival and current World Champion Japhet Korir will not now be competing.
Korir, who beat Ayeko by just two seconds at Greenmount a year ago, has been refused permission by Kenya to travel to the province as he may be required for the World Cross in China in a fortnight.
Ayeko's main threat is therefore likely to be former world junior steeplechase champion Jonathan Ndiku of Kenya who has a world class time of 8.07 to his credit and recently had a big cross country win in Japan.
Two other rivals will be half marathon ace Tsedat Abeje of Ethiopia and former Olympic 5,000m bronze medallist Edwin Soi of Kenya who was seventh in the Edinburgh Cross recently.
In the women's 5.6K senior event, Twell (25) is coming back into good form following her recent seventh in the European Cross where she was a member of the victorious Great Britain team. The Aldershot athlete is a former triple European Junior champion and recently ran a 10K PB in Leeds .
Twell will have her eye on a second Greenmount victory following her narrow one second win over Ireland's Deidre Byrne back in 2009. The main challenge will come from Ethiopian steeplechase pair Birtukan Fente Alemu and Birtukan Adamu.
The Northern Ireland team includes Declan Reed, Mark McKinstry, Scott Rankin and Cathy McCourt.