Vernon aiming for podium finish in Belgrade

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Andy Vernon has his sites set on a podium finish at next weekend’s European Cross Country Championships in Belgrade, Serbia.

The Aldershot, Farnham & District athlete has shown superb form in the run up to Sunday’s (December 8) race, with gold certainly a possibility.

As Britain’s fourth counter, Vernon came away from last years championships with team silver after his gutsy 13th place finish in Hungary, but his current fitness indicates he is capable of much more this time round.

“I would like to medal this year. I’ve medalled at the Europeans in the U23’s twice and the juniors once and that was back in 2005, 2007 and 2008,” the 27-year-old spoke.

“Now we’re in 2013 it’s a long time on and I think it’s about time I picked up a medal again, that’s what I’m going in there to get. If I could come out with a win that would be even better but first and foremost, try and get a medal.”

At last weekend’s trials in Liverpool Vernon dismantled his opponents early on for a comfortable 17 second winning margin and automatic selection spot.

It wasn’t just his emphatic win that attracted attention though, despite zig-zagging down the finishing straight for some celebratory high fives, the Aldershot athlete came home in an impressive 28 minutes and 47 seconds.

Not only is the time notable in itself, but Vernon knocked over one minute and 10 seconds off the time he recorded on the same course last year.

His impressive form has been evident way before last Saturday, too. At the National Cross Country Relays on November 2 the Nic Bideau coached runner powered his team to gold with his speedy second leg run.

Vernon clocked 15 minutes and two seconds in Mansfield, 22 seconds faster than any other athlete and almost 20 seconds quicker than in 2012.

The Aldershot athlete’s promising form has been in evident in recent months on the track and road, too. Setting personal bests over 3,000 metres, four miles and 10 miles, the 27-year-old has shown he is more than capable of coming away from Belgrade with some silver wear.

Post Euro’s, Vernon has a couple of meets jotted in his diary, but the rest will be decided in due course.

He spoke: “I’ll do the Edinburgh race and I think I’ve got Antrim lined up as well, but after that I’m not entirely sure. I might do the national and the inter-counties but I don’t know yet, we’ll see when we get there.”

Live coverage of the European Cross County Championships will be shown on BBC Two and online from 10am on Sunday December 8.