Belfast Telegraph

Sports Awards

Great Britain ace Vernon in star-studded Antrim line-up


By Brian Hill

Top Great Britain cross country international Andy Vernon will face World Steeplechase silver medallist Soufiane El Bakkali in Saturday's 41st Greenmount International Cross Country, which is part of an IAAF series .

Aldershot runner Vernon, who celebrates his 31st birthday the following day, has been the UK's best cross country runner for several years.

The current Inter-Counties champion was the top GB finisher in fifth place in last year's Euro Cross Championships. The Rio Olympian has also major credentials on the track, being second fastest GB athlete over 10,000 metres this year behind Mo Farah.

Andy has raced at Antrim on no less than five occasions with a second place to his credit back in 2010 behind Mike Kegen of Kenya.

Last January he was an impressive third behind Olympic steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto.

In August, Kipruto just managed to fend off Morocco's Soufiane El Bakkali in London to add the World title to his Olympic gold. The bad news for Vernon is that El Bakkali will also be taking the start line in Saturday's 8k race at Antrim .

El Bakkali (21) nearly snatched the World title from Kipruto in London when the Kenyan began celebrating prematurely immediately after he cleared the final barrier. However the Moroccan just could not close the gap and had to settle for silver, a mere 0.37 secs behind the winner.

The young El Bakkali is now being hailed as the man most likely in the future to break the Kenya steeplechase dominance which has resulted in no less than nine Olympic golds.

Other names in contention in the usual high quality field include World 1,500 metres silver medallist Timothy Cheruiyot from Kenya and Welsh marathon star Dewi Griffith.

The Women's race includes double European Cross champion Fionnuala McCormack and GB's Gemma Steel who was a member of the recent winning GB team in the European Championships.

Belfast Telegraph

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