The European junior cross country champion Stephanie Twell made a comfortable transition to the senior ranks by winning the Antrim International title yesterday.
The 19-year-old Aldershot starlet, who has been tipped to emulate the feats of her idol Paula Radcliffe and is a medal hopeful for the 2012 London Olympics, beat Deidre Ryan by only a second in a close finish, but always looked in command of the 5.6 kilometre race.
Just three weeks after completing a hat-trick of European junior successes, Twell again highlighted her potential by maintaining her unbeaten record in the McCain UK Cross Challenge series with a third victory.
Twell, who performed disappointingly at last year's Ulster meeting when she paid the penalty for going off too quickly, was content to follow her rivals in the early stages of the race. The world junior 1,500m gold medallist waited until the final circuit before making a significant break, and it seemed victory was guaranteed until her 26-year-old Irish rival powered back into contention. Ryan, raising hopes of a first home success since Catherine McKiernan won 15 years ago, made a strong challenge over the last 200m, but Twell never looked under pressure.
"I felt strong," said Twell, who ran in 18 minutes 25 seconds. "I knew she was there but I knew I had a sprint in me."