A determined Emelia Gorecka battled all the way to finish only two seconds behind the European Cross Country champion at the Edinburgh XCountry, while Laura Muir anchored the British quartet to relay glory.
Great Britain’s Emelia Gorecka battled right to the end of the women’s senior race at the Great Edinburgh XCountry as she attempted to close in on the early lead of Europe’s Yasemin Can.
Come the second of four laps in Holyrood Park, Gorecka, who was part of the GB gold-winning team in Samorin last month, had worked her way to the forefront of those in the hunt to close Can’s advantage. As the 4km race progressed and despite a huge effort from the 23-year-old Aldershot athlete, Can of Turkey successfully held on to retain her title in the Scottish capital, winning in a time of 20:58.
Gorecka can take immense credit from her gutsy display over the final two laps to diminish the closing gap to only two seconds in 21:00, with USA’s Molly Seidel third in 21:04.
“For me, a top five would have been an amazing performance. Prior to the race, top three would have been good. But once I got into second position, I was telling myself ‘don’t lose it’. That kept me going, said Gorecka afterwards. “But at the same time, people were saying ‘you should be going for first.’ I was using that to get me going. I was getting closer on the last lap but it’s the kind of course with all the twists and turns, that it’s going to be tough.”
“If someone had told me I’d come through all of this, I’d have thought they were having a laugh,” she added reflecting on her comeback this winter. “All I wanted to do was get back in the mix and feel like an athlete again. To be in the mix here, I feel like I’ve gone beyond that now. To be back and get that buzz back, that’s’ what I’ve missed so much.”
Britain’s Phoebe Law finished sixth in 21:21, with Verity Ockenden, a late addition to the GB team, sealing a top ten place with eighth in 21:35, followed by Jess Judd and senior debutant Harriet Knowles-Jones in ninth and tenth respectively.
Ireland’s Fionnuala McCormack in the blue of Europe and the runner-up last year will be disappointed to finish adrift in 11th place.
Muir anchors GB quartet to relay glory
Running the final of four laps Laura Muir made it look effortless as she pulled away with ease from her European and Belgium counterparts to successfully retain the Stewart Cup.
Muir, who started 2018 with the Scottish 3000m indoor crown, received the baton from Adam Clarke. Debutant Clarke had made a determined drive to pull away in the third leg only for his challengers to draw him back in – handing off in third place.
However, the gap two-time European indoor medalist Muir had to close was fairly insignificant given her track pedigree, and once in front, it was only a matter of how big the win would be.
As Muir crossed the finish line the biggest cheer of the day from the home Scottish crowd was heard as the GB team retained the Stewart Cup.
Earlier in the 4x1km race, Welsh athlete Tom Marshall led out the GB team, before handing over to Alexandra Bell who ran an impressive second leg particularly on the hill sections of the course.
With Great Britain taking the win, it was the Belgium in second, with Europe third and Ireland, anchored by Kerry O’Flaherty, fourth.
USA’s Korir retains senior men’s title
For the second consecutive year, it was Leonard Korir of the USA who sealed victory in Edinburgh. Mirroring race tactics from 2017, when he overtook Callum Hawkins, it was Europe’s Kaan Kigen Ozbilen who Korir passed as they neared the final descent to the finish line.
The Turkish athlete and European champion could do little to respond and finished second with 24:35, three seconds behind Korir in 24:32 over the 8km course. In third place was Europe’s Aras Kaya of Turkey in 24:39.
Ben Connor had a fantastic run, and lead the British contingent to finish fifth overall. Connor, who finished sixth at the European XC Championships drove the pace early in race asking questions of the top field of Europeans and Americans.
Connor split a trio of European athletes from a trio of USA internationals, including the 2016 winner in Edinburgh Garrett Heath, who finished sixth. Despite the close packing, Europe had just done enough to seal the team victory from America by three points.
Andy Vernon was the best amongst the rest of the British team and sealed a top ten spot to finish ninth.
U20 men and women’s internationals
In the men’s junior race it was an impressive cross country performance from Britain’s Matt Willis to clinch the third spot on the podium.
The 17-year-old Welshman finished behind Team Europe pair Simen Halle Haugen of Norway and Ouassim Oumaiz of Spain over the 6km course.
Tom Mortimer and Jake Heyward were the next British finishers, in sixth and seventh respectively.
American Kelsey Chmiel was the convincing winner in the women’s 4km junior race. Chmiel finished three seconds ahead of Europe’s Mariana Machado of Portugal and European junior 5000m champion Jasmijn Lau of the Netherlands.
Cari Hughes was the top British performer six seconds adrift in fourth, closely followed by teammates Khahisa Mhlanga and Niamh Brown.
At the end of the action in Edinburgh, the final team standings saw Europe take top honours ahead of Great Britain and the USA.
It was also revealed that the international cross country event, which has been held in Edinburgh since 2005, will have a new home from next year. Organisers are currently in discussions with potential locations to stage the 2019 edition.
Inter District Championships
Dundee Hawkhill Harrier Kristian Jones representing East Scotland won the senior men’s race in the Inter District Championships.Jones finished six seconds ahead of West Scotland’s Lachlan Oates of Shettleston Harriers, with Scottish Students’ Logan Rees third.
West Scotland’s Fionnuala Ross of Shettleston Harriers impressed to the win the senior women’s race by seven seconds ahead of North of England pair Abbie Donnelly of Lincoln Wellington and Georgia Malir of Leeds City.