Kenyan duo's timely reminder

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The Independent Online
Just IN CASE the recent European Cross Country Champ-ionships had lured anyone into a false sense of security, two teenaged Kenyans reminded everyone of the status quo at yesterday's international event here.

Catherina McKiernan of Ireland, who won the European title earlier this month, had to give best to the 18-year-old Rose Cheruyiot. And in the men's race, the 19-year-old Ismail Kirui marked his final competition as a junior with the emphatic front-running which brought him the world 5,000 metres title last year.

But on a course which, with slight adaptation, will host the World Cross Country Championships on 25 March, there were performances to give the home country cause for hope. Newcastle United's training session on a neighbouring field the previous day may have drawn a larger crowd, but those who lined the course had plenty to distract them from the cold.

In the men's race, Andrew Pearson, who was the first Briton home in finishing 11th at the Europeans, outsprinted Morocco's Salah Hissou to take second place, with Paul Evans finishing strongly in fourth.

The women's race saw Paula Radcliffe, in what was her first important race after 10 months' absence with injury, run with characteristic boldness to finish just behind McKiernan and ahead of Sonia O'Sullivan.

The Chinese pair of Wang Xiujie and Zhan Jiangying, charged partly with the task of seeing the lie of the land ahead of the World Championships, also found the long muddy climbs not to their liking, finishing out of the top 20.

The conditions did not unruffle McKiernan, however, who trains regularly on the golf course near her home in County Cavan. Radcliffe, too, was unphased. "We train on places like this," she said."It's no different from Ampthill Park on a muddy day." Like Radcliffe, Pearson has also missed the bulk of this year because of a stress fracture of the foot. Yesterday provided further evidence that he is ready to realise the potential he showed as a junior, although he could have done without a two-hour drive through the snow from his home in Batley after discovering that the local hotels were fully booked. For all the efforts of the Europeans, the Kenyan pair looked unassailable. For that, their manager John Bicourt must take much credit - it was only after his persuasion that they changed the spikes on their shoes from short to long.

The men's short-course race over 3.2 km contained many of Britain's leading middle-distance runners, including Gary Lough, John Mayock, Steve Cram, Mark Rowland and Matthew Yates. All were beaten by Philip Mowbray, a 21-year-old maths student from Edinburgh University who entered so late that his name did not appear on the start list. Mowbray, aptly enough in the conditions, runs for Hunters Bog Trotters.