Thorp and Chen hoping to get 2012 off to a flier

112281_PURBROOK_LADIES_26/06/11''(128) Cassie Thorp, winner of the Purbrook Ladies 5mile road race, Purbrook Heath, Purbrook.' 'Picture: Allan Hutchings (112281-432)
112281_PURBROOK_LADIES_26/06/11''(128) Cassie Thorp, winner of the Purbrook Ladies 5mile road race, Purbrook Heath, Purbrook.' 'Picture: Allan Hutchings (112281-432)
Runners stream past HMS Victory in the Historic Dockyard

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Cassie Thorp gets her chance to shine at the Hampshire AA Cross-Country Championships this weekend.

Thorp will be joined by Jess Chen as contenders to pick up titles as the county’s distance talents bid to begin the new year in style.

Chen will be aiming to follow her England call-up for the McCain UK Cross Challenge later this month, with a strong display in the New Forest.

And it’s a similar story for her City of Portsmouth clubmate Thorp, with both expected to shine.

With the likes of Steph Twell and Emma Pallant on international duty in Edinburgh, Thorp has a decent opportunity to get 2012 off to a flier.

Her coach Gerry North believes that can be the case – and the next 12 months can be big for the 24-year-old.

North warned expectations surrounding the former Pompey Ladies footballer have to be kept in check, however, and any talk of a late run to make the Olympics is a bridge too far.

He felt there is every chance of seeing Thorp pick up a GB vest on the road this year, however.

But, for now, the focus for her and the area’s other cross-country contenders is on performing in the county event.

North said: ‘Cassie will have a good chance in the senior race.

‘With Steph Twell and Emma Pallant in Edinburgh it gives her a chance to renew her rivalry with Ceri Mitchell, from Southampton.

‘Karrie Blake has entered, but I’m not sure she will compete with the South of England Indoor Championships coming up.

‘Jess has a good chance of wining the under-20 race.

‘She was in Brussels recently for an international race, but the course was thick with mud and Jess prefers firmer ground.

‘Jess got another call off the back of that performance, though, for Cardiff.

‘Hopefully we can have a good year from them all.

‘There has been some talk of Cassie as an Olympic prospect. That’s too far for her because you need the background in running.

‘I think she can get her GB vest though.

‘Karrie is still dead keen and Jess is a young girl with potential, so hopefully they can all do well.’

North has also received a boost after receiving the honour of being named an Olympic torchbearer ahead of the Games in London this year.

The City coach was selected after being nominated by a fellow club member, following a lifetime of dedication to athletics.

That means he will carry the Olympic flame when it arrives in the area in July.

North said: ‘It was quite an honour to be chosen.’