20th January 2024


Abbie Donnelly (coach: Rob Lewis, club: Lincoln Wellington) and Hugo Milner (Derby) were the senior winners at the London International Cross Country meeting on Saturday (20) – part of the British Athletics Cross Challenge series – as they sealed their places at the World Athletics Cross Country Championships in Belgrade.

Innes Fitzgerald (Gavin Pavey, Exeter), European U20 cross champion, was a convincing winner of the women’s U20 race at Parliament Hill Fields while James Dargan (Mick Woods, Aldershot Farnham and District) triumphed in the men’s race.

Bethan Morley (Bill Foster, Leeds) and Alex Melloy (Mark Vile, Cambridge and Coleridge) were victorious in the 4km Open races which acted as the BUCS trial for the World University Cross Country Championships in Oman.

Abbie Donnelly has enjoyed an excellent autumn / winter season to date as she won individual bronze and team gold at the Europeans last month, and she showed all her class in London to win the senior women’s race in commanding fashion.

Early on, she had Amelia Quirk (Mick Woods, Bracknell) and Lauren Mcneil (Hallamshire) for company as the trio made a move away from the rest of the field after 10 minutes of running, but she moved away soon after as she looked on course for a big race win.

Quirk would pull up in the closing stages which allowed an opportunity for Mcneil to act as the closest challenge to Donnelly. She finished quickly but could not catch up to the race leader who crossed the line in 34:22 with Mcneil 23 seconds further back. Aldershot Farnham and District’s Niamh Brown (Tim Eglen, Aldershot Farnham and District) motored down the final section to overhaul Phoebe Barker (Richard Owen, Tonbridge) to claim third.

In the senior men’s race, Hugo Milner battled to a second Cross Challenge victory on the season but he was pushed all the way by Tom Evans (Lewes) and Mahamed Mahamed (Idris Hamud, Southampton) in a close fought contest.

The trio, alongside last week’s Renfrew winner Jamie Crowe (Derek Easton, Central), established a breakaway midway through the contest and the quartet pushed each other all the way over the twisting and turning course. As they reached the top of the hill before the fast downhill finish, Crowe had dropped off the pace of the leading trio, with Mahamed also looking unlikely to challenge for the win.

In a close finish, Milner – fourth placer at the European last month – moved away from Evans to take the race victory by two seconds, with Mahamed five second further back in fourth.

In the following race, European gold medallist Innes Fitzgerald continued her cross country excellence as she achieved her third Cross Challenge victory in a row after winning in Cardiff and Liverpool last year.

The Exeter athlete pushed hard early on and opened up a lead which she extended through the race. She won by over a minute in the end from Eliza Nicholson (Mike Reeves, Blackheath and Bromley) with 2022 World Mountain Running gold medallist Jess Bailey (Matthew Long, Leven Valley) in third position.

In what was a combined race with the U17 girls, Zara Redmond (Kilbarchan) was victorious as she sprinted away on the final lap to win ahead of Georgia Bell (Jethro McGraw, Leven Valley) and Lucy Wilkinson (Shireen Higgins, Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow).

James Dargan continued his superb winter form as he triumphed in the men’s U20 race after accelerating away in the final kilometre.

He was pushed all the way with Quinn Miell-Ingram (Wendy Miell-Ingram, Radley) and Logan Beagley (Livingston) keeping him company after their breakaway move, but Dargan had that extra strength in the closing stages to motor up the hilly section and comfortably take the win. Miell-Ingram and Beagley held on for second and third position.

European cross mixed relay bronze medallist Bethan Morley ensured her place at the World University Cross Country Championships with a dominant victory in the women’s 4km open BUCS Trial race.

She started conservatively on the opening lap before opening up a clear margin on the second to win by 41 seconds. Tia Wilson (Bill Foster, Bedford & County) – another GB & NI international in Brussels last month – was second while Dani Chattenton (Kyle Bennett, MK Distance Project) was third.

Alex Melloy launched a stunning late surge for the line to overhaul long-time leader Sam Mills (Exeter) and clinch victory in the men’s 4km open race.

Mills looked to have made the decisive move on the last lap as he opened a lead on the rest of the field and looked set to hold on to it down the fast last section of the race, however, Melloy made light work of the 15m gap as he chased him down to seal a narrow win. Rowan Miell-Ingram (Wendy Miell-Ingram, Radley) came through in third place.

Alden Collier (Shireen Higgins, Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow) won the fierce battle with Welshman Iwan Thomas (Neil Thomas, Carmarthen) in the U17 men’s race after attacking the final downhill section to win by two seconds, while Harry Maxwell (Team Bath) ran a solid race to finish close behind in third spot.

Race favourite coming into the U15 girls contest – Olivia Forrest (Paul Forrest, Brentwood Beagles) – lived up to the billing with a big win ahead of Jorjia March (John Clarke, Barnet) and Ellarose Whitworth (Marc Thorpe, Lincoln Wellington).

Joseph Scanes (Paul Austridge , Blackheath and Bromley) sealed the win in the U15 boys race with Evan Grime (Ian Grime, Salford) and Archie Lane (Leamington) taking the other podium spots.

Earlier in the day, Maisie Mullett (John Skevington, Wreake and Soar Valley) – Liverpool Cross Challenge winner – won the first race of the event programme in the U13 girls race with Isabella Buchanan (HY Runners) and Kara Gorman (Nick Hughes, Chiltern) second and third respectively.

Craig Calver (David Cripps, West Suffolk) earned the win in the U13 boys race with Aidan Wolpert (Cornelia Abe-Minale, Victoria Park and Tower Hamlets) 10 seconds further back in second and Daniel Gallagher (Moy Valley AC) in third.