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Athletics: as North Wales trio make athletics squad.

Byline: By MARK CURRIE

THREE North Wales athletes, hammer-throwers Laura Douglas and Lesley Brannan, together with 400m runner Gareth Warburton, were last night confirmed as members of Team Wales at next year's Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

Douglas, from Wrexham and now a member of Manchester-based Sale Harriers, is the current Welsh record-holder with a distance of 61.48m to her credit, which she achieved in August at the Games trials in Cardiff.

Her North Wales rival Lesley Brannan, from Deeside, came second in the Cardiff competition with 60.38m and pushed Rhondda's Carys Parry, whose record Douglas broke, into third with 59.81m

Both Brannan, who wears the Birchfield Harriers vest, and Douglas were members of the Wales team at the last Commonwealth Games staged in Manchester and, although they failed to reach the later stages of the competition, the experience should stand them in good stead this time round.

There were celebrations in Caernarfon too when Cardiff AC athlete Warburton received his letter of confirmation.

The 21-year-old student, formerly a member of the Cowell Sports Academy in Bangor, came to the fore at the beginning of the year by anchoring the Great Britain 4x400m relay squad to a silver medal at the European indoor championships.

Less than a month later he set a new personal best time of 46.65s in winning the 400m at the British Universities championships in Glasgow and, although his outdoor season was punctuated by niggling injuries, he has been pencilled in for the individual one-lap race as well as a member of the relay team, along with Tim Benjamin, Matt Elia, Iwan Thomas and Rhys Williams.

The North Wales contingent - which could yet be expanded to four if Anglesey marathon runner Tracey Morris can prove her fitness before the December deadline - are among an 18-strong athletics squad for the two-week sporting festival in Australia from March 15-26. All the competitors successfully reached the qualification standards set by the Commonwealth Games Council for Wales and Welsh Athletics at the Welsh Championships and are deemed capable of achieving top eight positions next March.

Chef de Mission for Team Wales, Anne Ellis, said: "The Commonwealth Games provides one of the world's greatest sporting spectacles and we hope that our athletes can fulfil the potential we see in them, attain personal bests and bring a healthy medal haul back to Welsh shores."

The Welsh team returned home from the 2002 Games in Manchester with 31 medals, which placed them, on medals per head of population basis, ahead of England and Australia.

This time, Wales are aiming for a topfour spot on the per-head of population medal table, despite the absence of judo, which gave Wales six medals in 2002.

Welsh weightlifters were also able to medal in the snatch, clean and jerk and overall categories whereas medals will only be awarded in the overall class
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 20, 2005
Words:477
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