11th March 2024


Abbie Donnelly (coach: Rob Lewis, club: Lincolnshire) took the senior women’s title with Calum Johnson (Gateshead) a surprise winner in the senior men’s race at the final edition of the British Athletics Cross Challenge Final and the UK Inter-Counties Cross Country Championships at Wollaton Park.

In the U20 races, Innes Fitzgerald (Gavin Pavey, Devon) and Aron Gebremariam (Warwickshire) took the honours.

After so much recent rain it was a welcome pleasant day but with a challenging wind for the event in Nottingham which also acted as the trials for the World Athletics Cross Country Championships later this month so there was a lot at stake across a busy day of races.

The senior women’s race took place over 8k including a couple of tough uphill stages to really test the legs. By the end of the first short lap four athletes had broken away from the pack with Lauren McNeil (Derbyshire) setting the early pace.

Going into the third lap with 3k still to go Abbie Donnelly took the lead after a significant turn of pace.  Looking to secure the Cross Challenge series overall, the Lincolnshire athlete stretched her lead to take a comfortable win to become the Inter-Counties and Cross Challenge champion. Her place at the World Athletics Cross Country Championships was already secured following her win at the UK Cross Challenge at Parliament Hill but this further reinforced her credentials across the terrain.

Second place went to Derbyshire’s Lauren McNeil, reward for her early work, with Alice Goodall (Mark Pollard, Scotland East) completing the podium positions after a great battle in the final straight with Niamh Brown (Tim Eglen, Surrey).

The final event of the day, the men’s 10k senior race, was one of the closest with a more than a dozen in the leading pack at the end of the first lap. By the final lap this group had reduced to five with Calum Johnson (North East) pushing the pace with 1k to go with the ultra-runner, Tom Evans (Leicestershire & Rutland) hanging on to his coattails until the final uphill stretch.

Johnson then gritted his teeth and dug deep to break away for a sprint finish repeating his exploits of from two years ago to be crowned Inter Counties champion. Evans won the battle for second place with a late battle with third placed Scott Stirling (John Pentecost, Scotland East). The latter would be crowned the overall Cross Challenge series champion in the senior men’s standings.

Pre-race favourite, Innes Fitzgerald took an early lead in the U20s women’s race and led throughout to take the victory, well clear of the rest of the field. The European Cross Country champion had opened up a huge gap by halfway coming home first and securing the Cross Challenge series win. There was more of a battle for the other top positions with Kent’s Eliza Nicholson (Mike Reeves, Kent) just pipping Scotland East’s Natasha Phillips (Dundee) to take second and Cumbria’s Jess Bailey (Matthew Long, Leven Valley) a very close fourth.

The day had started with the men’s U20 event with conditions underfoot fairly good at this stage. There was a big leading group going into the final 3k but James Dargan (Mick Woods, Surrey) and Aron Gebremariam started to pull away from the pack. After a very competitive final lap the Birchfield Harrier took the win just ahead of Dargan, with Henry Dover, (Essex), the Liverpool Cross Challenge winner from Essex, finishing very strongly in third place.

Fifth-placed Quinn Miell-Ingram (Wendy Miell-Ingram, Oxfordshire) sealed the Cross Challenge series win ahead of Scotland’s Logan Beagley (Scotland East) – who was leading going into the Final – but he ended the race in 21st position.

The top three in the U17 women had broken clear of the field by the end of the first lap. Zara Redmond (Scotland West) – the 2023 Inter Counties winner and eventual 2024 Cross Challenge champion – had a great battle with Sophie Jacobs (Bedfordshire) before securing victory after a brilliant sprint finish, with Jacobs holding on for second. Sussex athlete and the early leader, Ava James (David Leach, Sussex) took third spot.

It was neck and neck going into the final straight in the men’s U17 race with a late surge from James Alexander (Alex Chalmers, Scotland West) enough to secure victory. Harry Maxwell, (Wiltshire), third at Parliament Hill, went one better to take second with Yorkshire’s Jonson Hughes taking the third podium spot. With his second-place finish, Maxwell snuck up the standings to take the Cross Challenge series title.

In the U15s boys’ race, pre-event Series leader Evan Grime (Ian Grime, Greater Manchester) went off at a pace building a huge lead after the first lap. However, the Greater Manchester athlete, second in the London leg of the Challenge, was soon caught at the start of the uphill second lap by Kent’s Joseph Scanes (Paul Austridge, Kent), winner in London and unbeaten this year, who took on the pace, building strongly right through to the tape to take victory by 20 seconds. Grime held on for second despite a strong finish from Freddie Rowe (Essex) in third and took the Cross Challenge Series title.

With the course starting to break up by mid-afternoon, the U15 girls saw a great battle in the mud between Olivia Forrest (Paul Forrest, Essex) and Libby Hale (John Griffiths, West Wales) with the Essex athlete securing the win to take both the Inter-Counties and Cross Challenge titles after winning all five races across the Series. Kitty Scott (Mick Woods, Surrey) took third place.

The girls U13 3k one-lap race was won after a dominate performance by Summer Smith from Essex in 11:05. Surrey’s Naomi Walmsley (Mick Woods) was second with Kara Gorman (Nick Hughes, Chiltern) for Bucks third so replicating the South of England Championships’ podium positions. Maisie Mullett (John Skevington, Nottinghamshire) was crowned the overall Series winner.

It was a very dominant win for Theo Creed in the boys U13 race, well clear of second placed, Ed Cunniffe (James McDonald) making it a Surrey 1-2 with Tom McCartie (Middlesbrough) of the North-East in third. Leader going into the Final, Adam Paget (Nottinghamshire), took the Series crown in the U13 category.


British Athletics Cross Challenge Series Final Standings 2024