Athetics: Leading Essex Ladies

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

FEW athletic events can operate without appearance money nowadays, and the GRE Cup finals at Sheffield this weekend are no exception.

In the case of the 11 athletes of the Bromley Ladies team, we are talking about a figure of pounds 25 each. And that is money they are paying to cover the costs of their own appearance.

The cost of competing and staying overnight in Yorkshire for this annual knock-out competition is a major undertaking for some of the more southerly representatives, although the favourites for the men's and women's cups, Haringey and Essex Ladies, are well catered for, with luxury coaches laid on and sponsorship deals in place with Eastern Electricity.

Essex Ladies will be calling as usual upon the versatility of an athlete who joined them at the age of 12 and who now finds herself as the first female British Olympic gold medallist since Ann Packer in 1964: Sally Gunnell.

With Jenny Stoute, another Olympian, available at 100 and 200 metres, Jacqui Parker, who just failed to get a qualifying time after being provisionally picked for Barcelona, at 400m hurdles and Kim Hagger, a past Olympian, doing the high jump and long jump, Essex, who have won the Jubilee Cup six times in the last eight years, have a consistency which looks irresistible.

Birchfield Harriers, who have Katharine Merry at 200m and Clova Court, Britain's heptathlon representative in Barcelona, competing in the 100m hurdles, javelin and shot, may present the nearest thing to a challenge, although Sale Harriers, with the Commonwealth 800m champion, Diane Edwards, running at 400m, Sue Crehan at 3,000m and Paula Fryer in the 4x400m, also look strong.

The prize for the eight teams contesting the women's Jubilee Cup the others are Coventry Godiva, Derby Ladies, Peterborough and Trafford, who have WPC Sandra Douglas, another Barcelona athelete, running at 400m is an automatic place in next season's European Clubs' final.

For the men, the honour of winning the Gold Cup will have to be its own reward, as it is the League winners who go forward as European representatives.

Haringey, who have won the Cup eight times since 1981, were put out to see their rivals, Belgrave Harriers, claim their first major trophy in last season's final. But Belgrave look likely to be without their sprinters, John Regis and Marcus Adam, who were due to run yesterday. The onus thus falls heavily on men such as Jon Ridgeon, who may compete over his new distance of 400m hurdles, Lenny Paul, a bobsleigher from the winter Olympics, in the sprints, Paul Edwards in the shot and Michael Edwards in the pole vault.

Haringey are likely to be able to call on the bulk of their team, which means Darren Braithwaite at 200m, Wayne McDonald at 400m, Brian Whittle at 800m, Dalton Grant in the high jump and Tony Jarrett, who missed an Olympic medal by a breath in Barcelona, at the 110m hurdles.

There was a certain amount of needle involved when Belgrave finally beat Haringey last year. The event could do with more heat being generated this year; the couple of thousand spectators expected will have their work cut out to make an impression at a venue which holds 20,000.