13th March 2020


The 2019 – 2020 Cross Challenge season saw new series champions crowned, unbeaten series runs and plenty of mud, sweat and tears along the way, making it one of the most enthralling series’ to date.

Heading the standout performances was Mahamed Mahamed (club: Southampton), who etched his name into the Cross Challenge history books as he became the first man since the 2009 – 2010 season to successfully defend a senior title for three consecutive seasons.

It was a near-perfect series from the Southampton man, who in his four races this season, was never outside of the top two, taking victories in Milton Keynes and Sunday’s finale in Loughborough. Mahamed was flanked for much of the race at Prestwold Hall by Adam Hickey (Eamonn Martin; Southend), who was bidding for his first series triumph since the 2014-15 season following strong runs in Liverpool and Stirling.

Mahamed however thrived on the churned up mud and pulled away from Hickey to secure his second win from three races at Prestwold Hall, his winning margin some 15 seconds in 37:21 from Hickey’s 37:36, with Tom Evans (Allison Benton; Lewes) taking third place on the day and in the series, the respective final standings for the trio were 208 points, 202 points and 195 points.

In the senior women’s race, Kate Avery (Shildon AC) showed her prowess over the testing terrain to successfully defend her series title and become the first woman since Jessica Sparke in 2011 to win back-to-back series titles.

Avery’s victories in Stirling and Milton Keynes after Charlotte Arter (Chris Jones; Cardiff) and Jess Judd (Mick Judd; Blackburn) won in Cardiff and Liverpool respectively, gave her a strong platform for a third series title and despite finishing the final race in fifth spot in 44:13, she edged Dani Chattenton (Kyle Bennett; MK Distance Project) by three points in the final standings, the duo registering 203 and 200 points respectively after Chattenton’s 43:55 effort for fourth place.

On the day, it was all about Charlotte Dannatt (Alan Driver; Camberley), who clocked 43:01 for her first Cross Challenge win of her career and her first cross country victory in any capacity since being crowned Surrey County champion in 2018, ensuring she ended the season in third position.

Jessica Gibbon (Reading AC) followed her home in second position in 43:07 and Phillipa Williams (Sheffield RC) rounded off the podium on the day 43:13.

Prior to the Under-20 women’s race, Saskia Millard (Luke Gunn; Herne Hill), Eloise Walker (Andy Young; Edinburgh), Olivia Mason (Graeme Mason; Border) and Cera Gemmell (John Lees; Team East Lothian) were all locked on 56 points, with Megan Keith (Ross Cairns; Inverness) a further two points back in the standings.

Millard won the season opener in Cardiff followed by the European Cross Country trial in Liverpool, with Walker taking the spoils in Milton Keynes in between

However, with the former three not racing in Loughborough, it was left to Scottish duo Gemmell and Keith to fight it out for the crown and on her Inter Counties debut, it was the latter who emerged victorious with the biggest winning margin of the day.

Keith stormed to a 36-second victory over Imogen Wood (Diarmuid Devery; Cornwall), clocking 23:34 to Wood’s 24:10. The latter took third place in the series standings on 84 points, with Gemmell second on 102 points, courtesy of a fourth place finish in 24:28, placing her just two points behind Keith.

The Under-20 men’s title went the way of Matt Stonier (Peter Mullervy; Invicta East Kent), who produced a measured run in Loughborough, pulling away from Josh Cowperthwaite (Martin Peevor; Middlesbrough Mandale) in the final kilometre for his maiden series title.

Stonier’s second-place finish in Stirling and third-place in Milton Keynes catapulted him top of the rankings alongside Josh Dickinson (Andrew Henderson; Leeds City), who took third in Stirling and fourth in Cardiff, to leave the duo locked on 56 points heading into the series finale.

Until the final series meeting, it had been all about Matt Willis (self-coached; Wrexham), who won the opening three meets of the season before stepping up to the senior rankings for the penultimate race in Stirling, the junior race going the way of Thomas Keen (Mark Vile; Cambridge & Coleridge).

But Stonier proved his worth when it mattered and surged to his first series maximum, with Dickinson having to settle for second courtesy of a sixth place finish on the day. Tomer Tarragano (John Clements; Brighton & Hove) took third place in the overall series after a strong fifth-place finish on the day, following up his fourth place finish in Stirling.

Beatrice Wood (Dave Amey; City of Salisbury) claimed her second consecutive U17 Women’s Inter Counties title in 20:59 but it was Maya Todd-McIntyre (Graham Moffatt; Rushcliffe) that won out on the day in the series standings, gaining her first series win by six points from Anna Hedley.

Wood was the first Under-17 home at the curtain raiser in Cardiff with Kirsten Stilwell (Andy Walling; Wycombe Phoenix) taking top spot in Milton Keynes. Anna Hedley (Mick Woods; Fife) completed the double of Liverpool and Stirling to move to within four points of her second title in as many seasons.

However it wasn’t quite to be as Todd-McIntyre beat her in a close run race, taking third position in 21:16, edging out Hedley who recorded a time of 21:21 for fourth place. By virtue of the fact neither Wood nor second-place Bethany Cook (Bodyworks) had run the required two Cross Challenge races to qualify for the final, Todd-McIntyre was able to scoop maximum points and round off an excellent series for herself.

The Under-17s men’s series was dominated by Devon trio Johnny Livingstone (Exeter), Flynn Jennings (Bideford AAC) and Oliver Smart (Tavistock Run Project), all of whom arrived in Loughborough on 57 points after all-but matching each other’s results in the opening four meetings.

European Cross Country U20 men’s team gold medallist Will Barnicoat (Trevor Raggett; Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow), who also won in Milton Keynes, took top spot on the day in 20:41, but it was Smart who rode on his coattails long enough to secure the series title, finishing close behind in 20:52.

Jennings, who won in Cardiff’s season opener, had to settle for second place on 101 points, while Archie Lowe (Martin Peevor; Middlesbrough Mandale) took third in the overall standings on 98 points, following up his second place finish in Stirling with a fourth place in 21:06.

Kiya Dee (Highworth) ensured she took a clean sweep in the Under-15 girls series with a fifth consecutive win, stopping the clock in 16:24, some 10-seconds clear of Hannah Ryding (Giffnock North) to stylishly claim her first Cross Challenge title.

With Dee securing the maximum 112 points on offer through the series, Scarlett Livingstone (Exeter) ensured she finished as series runner-up with a sixth place finish overall, the second Cross Challenge competitor home, for a 106 point haul, with Elsie Robinson (Stephen Robinson; Saffron AC), who was 13th on the day third with 104 points.

In the Under-15 boys series, it was Lewis Sullivan (St Edmund Pacers) ensured he was unbeaten from his three races as he edged Christopher Perkins (Birtley) and Ben Peck (Thetford) to the title.

Wins for Sullivan in Cardiff and Liverpool had him tied for top spot with the duo, with Perkins having won in Milton Keynes and Stirling, while Peck had been second in Liverpool and third in Milton Keynes to leave the trio tied on 56 points.

Sullivan delivered when it mattered most and emerged from the final field with a healthy lead over Perkins and took his first series title in style, taking an eight-second victory in 14:30, with Peck fifth in 14:50 in a close finish.

The Under-13 girls series crown went the way of Zoe Gilbody (Nick Hughes; Chiltern Harriers), who made it an unbeaten series for herself as she secured her fourth win of the Cross Challenge series. Having won in Cardiff, Milton Keynes and Liverpool, she amassed one of the largest victories of the day with a 26-second winning margin to Shaikira King (Wreake & Soar Valley) in 13:36 to 14:02 respectively.

Alden Collier (Nick Hughes; Chiltern) ensured the club completed an age-group double as he won the Under-13 boys title following a 29th place finish in Loughborough. Henry Sheffield (Cirencester) won the race in 13:12, but Collier took fourth spot in the Cross Challenge points by virtue of those ahead of him not competing in the series.

Hague, who finished the race sixth, moved up to equal second in the final standings on 101 points, tying with Iwan Thomas (Neil Thomas; Carmarthen) and Oliver Patton (Kilbarchan), as Collier pinched the series crown with 105 points.