Belfast Telegraph

Athletics: Antrim lit up by a Lotte

Charlotte Purdue, the new golden girl of British cross country, produced another scintillating performance to win the weekend 5.6K Cross Country International at Greenmount agricultural grounds in Antrim.

The diminutive 19-year-old provided clear evidence again as to why she is currently in a separate class from any other European athlete.

From the gun she appeared unfazed by the heavy mist and sub zero temperatures.

For the first 2k she appeared to be running with ease in a group comprising world junior bronze medallist Esther Chemtai of Kenya plus a host of GB internationals such as Louise Damen, Sonia Samuels, Gemma Steel and Stevie Stockton.

However, in the second half of the race, the front running Purdue's increased pace dropped everyone bar Damen and Chemtai.

In the final lap the Aldershot girl underlined her European Championship credentials by breaking clear to record a 30 metres victory over Damen who just got the better of a fast finishing Chemtai. Sonia Samuels was fourth, two seconds ahead of Gemma Steel.

This first senior win for Purdue gives her a hat-trick of victories in the McCain UK Cross Challenge series following wins in Liverpool and Cardiff.

Unwilling to rest on her laurels, Charlotte will continue her hectic schedule with races in the British Universities, Inter Counties and the World Cross.

“I love racing and intend to carry on as long as I remain healthy and injury free,” she said afterwards.

Best of the local finshers was marathon specalist Gladys Ganiel-O'Neill who was a very credible 10th in the Antrim Borough Council-sponsored event.

The Men's 9k event had possibly the strongest ever line-up in the 34-year history of this meeting.

The starting line contained no fewer than six Africans, including last year's winner Mike Kigen of Kenya, plus World Junior 10,000 metres champion Dennis Masai and sub 13 minutes 5,000 metres runners Titus Mbishei and Jacob Cheshari.

From the gun, these six showed the British and Irish opposition just why Africa dominates the world of distance running.

Their blistering pace dropped the entire field within the first half lap and the only debate thereafter was which Kenyan would secure victory.

Fittingly, that honour went to last year's winner Kigen who confirmed his recent good form with a six second victory over team-mate Mbishei.

Chesari completed the rostrum winners.

The ferocious pace was reflected in the fact that the winning time was some 90 seconds faster than that of last year over the same course.

A rather shell-shocked Andy Vernon was first British finisher in seventh, followed by Mike Skinner and Scotland's Derek Hawkins.

Vernon said: “I am pleased with my performance as the competition was a lot tougher than last year when I was second.''

Top local finisher was Eddie McGinley in 15th place.

Best of the other winners was Aldershot's Louise Small who had a massive 70 seconds victory over North Laois athlete Mary Mulhare in the Junior Women's race.

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