9th November 2019


Mahamed Mahamed and Kate Avery emulated their senior victories from last year in today’s second leg of the British Athletics Cross Challenge at Teardrop Lakes, Milton Keynes.

Many of the leading contenders were honing their preparations for the European Cross trial in two weeks’ time and the reasonably boggy conditions were useful practice for what might be in store at Sefton Park.

By the time Mahamed (Club: Southampton) and his rivals lined up for the men’s 9.05km race, the early bright and dry weather had given way to icy rain. However, he made light of the mud as he pulled clear in the second half of the last lap of three laps.

Earlier on, he and Sam Stabler (Club: Rob Denmark; Coach: Wreake & Soar Valley) led a small group through the start of the bell lap. Jack Gray (Cambridge & Coleridge; Coach: Mark Vile) pushed the pace around the lake soon afterwards as Tom Evans (Lewes; Allison Benton) was also in among them.

However, Mahamed had enough in the tank and he completed his third win here in consecutive years. Stabler crossed the line next as he won a tight battle with Evans in the home straight, while Gray was fourth. Alex Teuten (Southampton; Roderick Lock) was fifth, followed by James McMurray (St Albans Striders; Alex Teuten (Southampton; Roderick Lock). Behind Jack Millar (Bristol & West; David Bedwell), Adam Hickey (Southend/Eamonn Martin) followed home in his first race since his marathon debut in Berlin in September.

Mahamed will be hoping he can score another hat-trick by winning the Cross Challenge overall this winter, but his focus is on Liverpool and making the team for the fifth year in a row.

The runner who was 44th at the World Cross this year, said afterwards: “I can’t even speak, the rain is freezing! It’s very muddy, but this is Britain so what do you expect?

“It’s good preparation for Liverpool and then hopefully the Euros, so this is kind of training. I’m feeling confident.

“I feel disappointed with how the Euros went last year so I aim to do better. I feel more confident than last year. I’m not focusing on the series; the Euros are my aim.”

Another highly experienced winner was Avery (Shildon), who will be hoping to represent Britain for the seventh time at the Euro Cross.

Avery whittled the lead group down to five after the first lap and, with a lap to go, she and Emily Hosker-Thornhill (Aldershot, Farnham & District; Mick Woods) were a couple of seconds clear of the rest.

However, it was the twice former European silver medallist Avery who eventually pulled away over the last 200m of the 5.6km race to secure a four-second win over Amy Griffiths (Aldershot, Farnham & District; Rob Denmark) in 20:11.

Former World Cross junior representative Bronwen Owen made a stride forward in senior competition as she placed third in 20:19. Hosker-Thornhill (Leeds City; Andrew Henderson) was fourth and Hannah Irwin (Guildford & Godalming) fifth. Dani Chattenton (Milton Keynes Distance Project; Kyle Bennett) was sixth.

Avery said: “It was hard work but I felt like I had plenty in there so that, if it came down to a sprint finish, that I had good legs.”

Comparing it to her win last year, she said: “I’d raced coming into it, so I probably felt a bit more confident [last year] and you can be training well but you don’t know until you actually race. I just wanted to get here before Liverpool and I’m pleased with how it’s gone.”

Matt Willis (Wrexham) prevailed in the combined under-20/under-17 race despite he and the first dozen or more athletes veering off course at one point. The junior crossed the line in the 5.6km event eight seconds clear of Joe Wigfield (Wirral; Craig Winrow) in 18:30 after moving clear in the last 2km.

Matthew Stonier (Invicta East Kent; Peter Mullervy) was third in 18:42, two seconds ahead of Hamish Armitt (Giffnock North).

Willis said afterwards: “We didn’t get sent the wrong way. I think the person leading our group just sort of didn’t know quite where the corner was and we all just ran past it. Only 10 metres after we all turned around and reversed where we were in the group. No one went wrong too much. I’d say it was still a fair race.”

He said of his tactics: “My plan was to sit in and see how everyone was racing because there were a few people here that weren’t at Cardiff. I waited until the second time we went up the steep hill on the big lap and thought I need to push on relatively early because I knew Joe had a really fast run at the [Mansfield] relays last weekend and I didn’t want to compete with him at speed at the end.”

National runner-up Will Barnicoat was first under-17 in sixth overall, while Oliver Smart (Tavistock Run Project) was second. Flynn Jennings, the winner in the opening fixture at Cardiff, had earlier on pushed the pace with Barnicoat before finishing third.

Eloise Walker (Edinburgh University; John Lees) pulled clear half way around the second and final lap to come home six seconds clear in the junior women’s 4.8km in 16:38.

Olivia Mason (Border Harriers; Graeme Mason), third in the Inter-Counties last season, finished strongly to come through for second. Tia Wilson (Bedford & County), who had made the pace with Walker at the start of the last lap, was third in 17:10.

Then followed a trio of under-17s in succession. The first of them was Kirsten Stilwell (Wycombe; Andrew Walling) in 17:14 as she moved through well at the end to place six seconds ahead of Maya Todd McIntyre (Rushcliffe; Graham Moffatt). Freya Stapleton (Shaftesbury Barnet; Jeremy Sothcott) was third, another second adrift.

Walker said: “The course was really tough. It was really hilly and I’ve not been doing a lot of hills  recently. I love cross country but this was hard.”

Looking ahead to Liverpool she said: “Obviously I’m against so many fast girls so it’s going to be tough. I’d love to make the team but, if I don’t, I’m not going to be gutted.”

Chris Perkins (Birtley; Gary Curtis) was a comfortable winner of the under-15 boys’ 4.15km. As the first of the rain fell, Perkins coasted home to stop the clock on 13:26. Frank Morgan (Carmarthen; Carol Jones) was second in 13:36 and Jake Wilson (Vale Royal; Andrew Carter) was third in 13:39.

In the under-15 girls’ 4.15km event, Kiya Dee (Highworth AC) was so far clear she had time to correct the commentator on the pronunciation of her name. (to rhyme with “fire”), and she blazed to victory by 22 seconds in 14:52. Elsie Robinson (Saffron; Robert Griffiths) was runner-up and four seconds behind was Valencia Wright (Giffnock North).

Alden Collier led by around seven seconds after the first, smaller, lap of the under-13 boys’ race and he eventually had a two-second margin at the end of the 2.9km, clocking 9:51. Liam Conway (Cambridge & Coleridge) was second and Charlie Hague (Exeter Harriers) was third in 10:06.

After her win in Cardiff, Zoe Gilbody (Chiltern Harriers; Nick Hughes) continued her form with victory in the under-13 girls’ 2.9km race. Timed at 10:19, she was three seconds ahead of Phoebe Gill (St Albans Striders; Deborah Steer). Sophie Jacobs (Milton Keynes Distance Project) was third in 10:06.

Elsie Jacobs (Bicester) was winner of the under-11 girls’ race as she kicked off the day’s racing style with 6:54 for the 1.75km race. Raphie London (Vale of Aylesbury) held off the strong finish of Fred Jones (Wolverhampton & Bilston) in the boys’ race as both were given the same time of 6:10.