Hayley Yelling Surprises with Win at SPAR European XC Champs! release, note by Larry Eder, Photo Gallery from PhotoRun.net.

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Hayley Yelling wins the SPAR European XC Champs, photo by PhotoRun.net.


The SPAR European Cross Country Championships welcomed Hayley Yelling, the 35 year old school, who started training seriously at the beginning of November! Yelling won the champs, with Spain's Rosa Maria Morato in the silver position and Adrienne Herzog taking the bronze from the flagging Jessica Augusto. Augusto lead the Portuguese women to the title, with 25 points, with Great Britian in second with 51 points and Spain in third, with 58 points!

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Women's lead pack, SPAR European XC Champs, photo by PhotoRun.net.

To quote the course announcer at Dublin's Santry Demense course on Sunday, "This can only be described as a masterful piece of running."

They were appropriate words uttered as Great Britain's Hayley Yelling was close to the line and just a few seconds away from regaining the SPAR European Cross Country Championships title she won in 2004.

Even more remarkable, the 35-year-old school teacher has only been training seriously again since the start of November.

If you look back to the news on www.european-athletics.org, almost exactly 12 months ago to the day, it was announced that Yelling had decided to hang up her spikes in the wake of a disappointing 19th place last year in Brussels.

However, the running bug started to bite again at the start of the winter and clearly her appetite has returned in force.

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SPAR Euro XC women's lead pack....photo by PhotoRun.net.

To many people's amazement, Yelling pushed hard from the gun and started to move away from the field just a kilometre into the 8018m race.

After the first lap of 1650m, she had four seconds advantage over a 14-strong chasing pack that was headed by the highly favoured Portuguese pair of Inês Monteiro and Ana Dulce Félix, as well as the local poster girl of the event, Mary Cullen.

The gap stayed the same through the next lap, although the group behind her was reduced to five - Monteiro, Félix and fellow Portuguese runner Jessica Augusto along with Spain's Rosa María Morató and the Netherlands' Adrienne Herzog, as Cullen started to slip back - with Yelling looking remarkably relaxed despite her slightly awkward running action of her arms swinging across her front.

Yelling then made another surge from the halfway point and had six seconds to spare over Augusto and Morató, second and fifth last year, who had slowly shaken themselves free of their companions at the next check point at 4823m.

In the sixth kilometre, with Yelling still running in very confident fashion apart from rather delicately picking her way around the occasional but growing patches of mud on the course, Morató started to edge away from Augusto in a bid to add to her bronze medal from 2007.

Behind Morató, Herzog had moved onto the shoulder of Augusto, who was clearly flagging a little, in a battle for third place.

On the final lap, Yelling's exhilaration of being on top of the podium was clear to see. There was a broad smile on her face and no sign of any panic, before she crossed the line in 27:49.

"It was fantastic. I think retirement is the way forward but I guess I'm not retired any more. It wasn't a deliberate tactic to go to the front, it was just that I wanted to run hard and see how far I could go," said a thrilled Yelling.

Yelling was running in the championships for the 12th time and almost certainly will equal the women's record of 13 appearances - held by Belgium's Anja Smolders - next year.

Morató raised her arms in delight at getting the silver medal, finishing seven seconds behind Yelling while Herzog - the 2007 SPAR European Cross Country Championships U23 silver medallist - added the bronze to her collection when she came home eight seconds further back.

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Hayley Yelling and Rosa Maria Morato embrace after a race well run, SPAR Euro XC course, Dublin, Ireland, photo by PhotoRun.net.

Augusto, Monteiro and Félix finished in the next three places to deliver Portugal their expected team gold medals with 25 points, retaining the title they won last year.

It was the perfect promotional boost for next year's SPAR European Cross Country Championships, which will be held on the Algarve resort of Albufeira in Portugal.

Great Britain took the silver medals with 51 points while Spain came home third in 58 points.

To the disappointment of the local crowd, who were eagerly anticipating a medal from Cullen, the Sligo runner had a difficult time over the second half of the race and drifted back to finish 12th.

For more on SPAR XC, try www.european-athletics.org

For more on our sport, please click on http://www.runningnetwork.com

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