Hay Assumes Captaincy Role In China

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Jonny Hay (coach: Mick Woods) has been named GB & NI’s captain for the forthcoming IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, China on Saturday 28 March.

The 23 year old, who will make his fourth appearance at the event, but first as a senior is delighted to have landed the role and believes that his appointment is a testament to the future of the team at major cross country championships.

“I’m pretty proud – it’s a big honour to be team captain at any event, but to be it at the World Cross is amazing. It shows how young the team is, but as a group we’re looking really strong and everyone has earned their position to be here. There is a lot of talent and hopefully we’ll go out there perform at our best and nail it on the day.”

Hay is determined to lead by example and has set his sights on a high finish after a cross country season, which saw him finish fourth in the U23 race at the European Cross Country Championships in Samokov.

“I’ve been put in this team to be top 30 and that’s exactly what I want to go out and do. (Chris) Derrick the American came 10th last World Cross and if I can come anywhere near that I would have had an outstanding run. I was the fifth non-African and first European as a junior, so if I could emulate that in my transition to the senior team, I’d be extremely happy.”

European cross country champion Gemma Steel (John Nuttall), who was 31st at the last edition of the event two years ago is determined to build on her performance in Bydgoszcz when she lines up in the senior women’s team with European U23 cross country gold medallist Rhona Auckland (Joyce Hogg), who returns to action for the first time since her triumph in Bulgaria in December.

“I like to be competitive and do the best I can do on the day against the best in the world, which is what most people aim to do. I just want to run my best and give myself the best chance of doing as well as I can. I’m looking to build on my performance at the last World Cross (31st in Bydgoszcz) and anything else from that is a bonus,” said Steel, who at 29 years old is the most senior athlete by six years.

Auckland added: “I’m looking forward to it – it’s a bit of an unknown quantity so it will be nice to go into it with no pressure, so I’m looking to go out there and run fearless.

“Just not knowing how I’m racing takes the pressure off a little bit. I’m going in with the confidence from that – I know I can produce that performance and fitness wise I’m similar to where I was in Samokov so I’m trying to use it in a positive way.”

British Athletics’ Head of Endurance Barry Fudge, has been full of praise for the team, who have adapted well since arriving in China on Monday: “Jonny (Hay) has shown in the last week his true leadership qualities in supporting the team in Guiyang and that has contributed to a really positive environment. Despite the team being relatively young in age and experience, they have equipped themselves well with the travel and change of culture.

“Tomorrow will be a big test for the group, but it will undoubtedly be an experience that will bode well for future international competitions.”

Harriet Knowles-Jones (Paul Roden) and Phoebe Law (Richard Holt) have withdrawn from the team due to visa issues and illness respectively. Knowles-Jones has been replaced by Abbie Donnelly (Rob Lewis).

The IAAF World Cross Country Championships is live on the BBC Red Button and online at 03:50 GMT or you can catch up on the action at 16:00 GMT on BBC 2 (16:30 BBC 2 Scotland).