Another busy weekend of racing saw thousands of athletes taking to the regional cross-country championships across England. James Rhodes brings you results from the best of the action.
Writer’s Note: bringing timely and/or accurate cross-country results can sometimes be a challenge. It was great to have live results at all three championship events this weekend; long may it continue!
Cross Country Championship Weekend
The Southern Championships returned to the picturesque Beckenham Place Park for the third year running. Improvements have been made to the course year-on-year to reduce the number of laps, and Saturday’s races were no different.
Last year’s winner James Kingston impressively retained his title in the senior men’s race by finishing almost half a minute clear of the rest of the field. The Tonbridge athlete made his England senior debut at Parliament Hill last weekend and will be confident heading to the National Championships next month. Alex Lepretre of Highgate crossed the line in second, with Aldershot, Farnham & District’s Callum Charleston third. Highgate’s Roger Poolman and Ben Cole of Tonbridge took fourth and fifth respectively.
The team competition provided Highgate Harriers (84 points) with a commanding win. Hercules Wimbledon (145) and Kent (232) completed the podium in second and third respectively. Six athletes scored.
The senior women’s race provided Reading’s Jess Gibbon with a clear victory, her third after 2020 and 2022. Herne Hill Harrier Georgie Grgec was second, as she continues her preparations for the World Cross Country Championships where she will represent New Zealand. Holly Dixon of Cambridge Harriers completed the podium in third. Just one second separated City of Norwich’s Megan Gadsby and Helen Hall of Winchester for fourth and fifth.
With four to score, usual winners Aldershot, Farnham & District retained their team title (37 points). Thames Hare & Hounds (75) and Belgrave Harriers (113) joined the quartet on the podium.
James Dargan of AFD and Rose Chesterfield of Winchester won the respective U20 races. Blackheath & Bromley’s Eliza Nicholson, who finished second to Innes FitzGerald at Parliament Hill last week, won the U17 race, as did Chelmsford’s Sam Plummer.
In her first cross-country race of the season, Gemma Steel retained her senior women’s title at the Midland Championships. The event was held at Newbold Comyn in Leamington Spa and saw the Charnwood athlete finish just nine seconds ahead of Birchfield’s Bryony Gunn. Julie Emmerson of Coventry Godiva Harriers completed the podium.
Charnwood comfortably secured the team title. Sophie Coldwell, Juliet Potter and Emily Smith joined Gemma in the scoring team with all four finishing in the top eight. Bristol & West and Birchfield Harriers completed the podium.
A week after finishing second at the London International at Parliament Hill, Tom Evans moved one place higher to win the senior men’s race. The Lewes AC athlete finished fourteen seconds ahead of Birchfield Harrier Omar Ahmed. Jack Millar of Bristol & West completed the podium in third.
Despite no individual athletes on the podium, Birmingham Running Athletics & Tri won the team title, led by Charlie Davis in fifth. Bristol & West secured silver and Notts AC bronze.
Aron Gebremariam and Bethan Horner won the respective U20 races, whilst Shaikira King and Ash Burgess won the U17 competitions.
Even Further North
Sedgefield hosted the Northern Championships which saw Calum Johnson and Lauren McNeil win senior titles.
Similar to Tom Evans, Lauren McNeil finished second at Parliament Hill last weekend and won the senior title. The Hallamshire Harrier finished 25 seconds ahead of clubmate Lauren Hayes. Wirral’s Sophie Tarver completed the podium having finished 35 seconds behind Heyes. Good packing by Leeds City (fifth, sixth, seventh and tenth) saw them secure the team title with 28 points. Hallamshire Harriers took silver (67 points) and Sale Harriers bronze (144 points).
Precisely 30 seconds separated Gateshead Harrier Calum Johnson from Angus McMillan of City of York in the senior men’s race. Matthew Ramdsen of Blackburn Harriers took bronze. With 91 points Leeds City ensured a second senior team title, despite no athletes finishing inside the top-ten. Salford Harriers (107) and Hallamshire Harriers (119) completed the podium.
Josh Blevins and Amelie Lane won the junior men and women races respectively.
There is not a track more renowned for delivering fast distance races than that at Boston University. This weekend it played host to the BU John Thomas Terrier Classic, and the results were just as impressive. It also witnessed a step-change in British 5000m running, with two men running inside thirteen minutes. Prior to Friday night, only two men had run inside that time; Mo Farah and Marc Scott. In the space of 25 laps (well, 50, as athletes were spread over two races), two more joined them.
First up, George Mills. The 1500m specialist was contesting only his second 5000m. His 13:18.33 debut in June was notable, his second attempt even more so. He clocked 12:58.68, a 20 second improvement on his debut and well inside the Olympic standard of 13:05. In the next race, Sam Atkin continued his trend of running well in Boston, clocking 12:58.73 to also finish inside thirteen minutes. Two Olympic qualifiers in one evening! In the same race Andy Butchart clocked 13:30.25 in his indoor 5000m debut; that time is his fastest since the Tokyo Olympics.
George Mills crashes through the Olympic standard over 5000m 🔥🔥🔥
12.58.68 in Boston makes him third UK all-time pic.twitter.com/AxwV7rmgBG
— British Athletics (@BritAthletics) January 27, 2024
Jack Rowe continued his excellent form with 7:38.35 for 3000m. In doing so he became the sixth British athlete to break 7:40 indoors (alongside Sam Atkin, Mo Farah, Josh Kerr, Andy Butchart and Jake Wightman). David Mullarkey (7:42.89) set an impressive PB in the same race, moving to joint-eleventh on the UK all-time list.
Aimee Pratt (15:26.82 PB) ran a day later in the women’s race. European U23 medallist Shannon Flockhart (4:30.83), Molly Hudson (4:30.92) and George Keen (4:08.66) all set PBs in the mile.
Another impressive performance came from Adam Fogg at the Dr Sander Invitational in New York. He won in a PB of 3:53.55, moving him to sixth on the British all-time list indoors. He will get to race at the Millrose Games as a result of that win, where a faster time may be on the cards. Ellie Leather (4:30.06) and Phoebe Anderson (4:35.89) also set lifetime bests at the distance.
At the Razorback Invitational, Ed Bird ran inside eight minutes for 3000m for the first time, his 7:59.99 PB as close as it could get! Jack Meijer (7:58.18) also ran. Dropping in distance, steeplechaser Elise Thorner (4:38.64) was a second shy of her lifetime best in the mile. Steeplechase specialist Sarah Tait set a 3000m PB (9:20.45) at the Penn State National Open. Finally, in his first 800m since 2020, Conan Harper ran sub-two (1:59.46) at the Clemson Bob Pollock Invitational. Tonbridge’s Charles Crick (1:49.82) also ran.
Henry McLuckie set an eight second PB (7:47.18) at the Washington Invitational, an oversized track. The PNC Lenny Lyles Invitational in Kentucky saw Kristian Imroth improve his PB to 8:07.85 over the same distance.
Indoors in Europe
In Spain, Sarah McDonald raced indoors for the first time since the 2019 European Indoor Championships in Glasgow. She won the 1500m at the Miting Internacional de Catalunya in 4:07.65. That time left her one second shy of becoming the seventh British woman to run the World Indoor qualifier of 4:06.50.
On the Roads
A contingent of British women travelled to Spain for Sunday’s Seville Half Marathon. Fastest was Lucy Reid on her return to her near best, clocking 70:30 to finish sixth. That time is just one second shy of her PB, set in Copenhagen two years ago. Perhaps the best performance, however, came from Sarah Astin. The Belgrave Harrier finished in 71:42 (71:40 chip); a five-minute improvement on her debut at the distance two years ago.
— 1/2MaratónSevilla (@mediodesevilla) January 28, 2024
Another significant improvement came from Tess McCormack, who’s 72:15 (72:13 chip) is a near two and a half minute PB. Steph Twell clocked 73:01 and Helen Gaunt 75:42, the latter a two minute PB.
RunThrough Round Up
There was no shortage of RunThrough races this weekend. One of the fastest performances came from Kevin Quinn (68:52) at the Lee Valley VeloPark Half Marathon on Saturday. He crossed the finish almost eight minutes clear of the rest of the field. Robyn Eastwood (96:07) was fastest in the women’s race.
In South London, Avdi Madar (77:59) and Olivia Turner (89:54) were victorious at the hilly Crystal Palace Half Marathon. The 10k went to Aleisha Wawn (39:17) and Peter Edwarde (41:12), whilst Roger Alberto (20:16) and Patricia Davila (27:02) won the 5k. Moving to the north of the Thames, Melissah Gibson (82:32) and Julian Sinke (76:46) won the Finsbury Park Half Marathon. Alex Smith (31:56) won the 10k by almost one minute, with Aisling Ahern (39:44) the fastest female.
Midweek, Leonie Biemolt (37:02) and Oliver Li (33:19) were quickest at the Chase the Moon Battersea Park 10k. Finally, Sam Juson (73:32) and Lucy Williamson (81:48) set the quickest times at the Chepstow Running Festival Half Marathon.