23rd November 2019


Jess Judd (coach: Mick Judd; club: Blackburn) and Ben Connor (Derby) took the top spots at the European Cross Country Championship trials in Liverpool on the third leg of the British Athletics Cross Challenge meet.

Judd, who competed at the IAAF World Championships in Doha, made her mark on the field as she started pulling away on the second lap and extended her lead into the last lap, winning in 28:22, with 2018 course winner Charlotte Arter (Chris Jones; Cardiff) second across the line in 28:32.

Kate Avery (Shildon) secured third spot with a strong performance as she kept chase with the leading group throughout, recording a time of 28:40, with Amy Griffiths (Rob Denmark; Aldershot, Farnham & District) in her first year as a senior, taking the final automatic qualification spot three seconds further back.

Judd earns her first senior call-up as an individual senior to the European Cross Country team having been part of the mixed relay team last year and feels that she produced one of her

“I didn’t want to jinx anything and wanted to see how things went and I think that’s my best race ever and I’m really happy with it.

“I wanted to sit in but I struggle in the mud trying to find a line or two but on the last lap I wanted to try and get away before the really muddy section otherwise I knew I’d get left behind but that last lap went on forever.

“When my dad said ‘enjoy it in the final straight’ then I knew I’d won and I think that’s the most I’ve ever enjoyed a home straight.”

Connor, who won on this course in 2017, took things out from the front in the men’s equivalent and produced a polished performance on a churned up surface in Liverpool to pip series leader Mahamed Mahamed (Southampton AC) to the line, cutting the tape in 30:22 to Mahamed’s 30:27.

The latter took the first under-23 auto-pick, with Alex Yee (Kenneth Pike; Kent), who was third in 30:35 also adding his name to the list of U23 auto-qualifiers, with Adam Hickey (Eamonn Martin; Southend) improviing on his seventh place finish in Milton Keynes with a fourth place in 30:50 for a second auto-spor.

Trail runner Tom Evans (Caerleon) took the third auto-qualifying spot in sixth place with 31:03 his final time, and Kristian Jones (Swansea), who was 12th at last year’s Euro Cross, taking the fourth spot two seconds further back in seventh.

After the race, Connor said: “I came here to get the job done and the Europeans was a big target for me and I succeeded and the win is even sweeter.

“I wanted to make it hard early on, I’d rather break people up early than leave it to a sprint finish and me and Mahamed broke away on the last lap and I opened up on him and held it to the finish.

“I’ve not had a break since the track and I’ve come straight through to this so I’m hoping I can end the year well.”

With Mahamed and Yee booking their spots with their spots with top three finishes, the final two automatic spots went the way of Emile Cairess (Philip Townsend; Leeds City), fifth in 31:00 and Sol Sweeney (Andy Young; Perth Strathtay), tenth in 31:32.

Bronwen Owen (Andrew Henderson; Leeds City) was the first of the Women’s Under-23s across the line, taking seventh position overall in 28:57, with Cari Hughes (Andy Walling; Swansea) in her first Cross Country race of the season, recorded a respectable 14th place in 29:35.

Amelia Quirk (Mick Woods; Bracknell AC) finished two places behind Hughes in 29:39, with the fourth automatic spot being earned by Eleanor Bolton (Ribble Valley) in 29:42.

Matt Willis (self; Wrexham) made it a trio of consecutive victories on the Cross Challenge circuit with a huge victory in Liverpool, crossing the line in 21:13 for his first win on the circuit and securing the first of the five automatic qualification slots.

American-based Charles Hicks took second place in 21:28, followed by Zakariya Mahamed (Southampton AC) three seconds further back, earning his second British selection after making the IAAF World Cross Country Championship team, moving second in the series standings

Hamish Armitt (Giffnock North) and Will Barnicoat (Trevor Raggett; Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) battled one another for fourth and fifth position respectively in 21:34 and 21:35 respectively,

Willis, who earns his second British selection of the year and is relishing the chance to end his season on a high and make his mark once again on the European stage.

He said: “It was a flat course and I went out quite quick and then person by person, we kept picking up the pace. The aim was just make the top six but when I had a chance, I thought I’d make the break and managed to hold it.

“The target coming into the Cross Country season was to get selected for the Europeans and now my goal is a medal. It may be slightly out of reach but anything can happen when you come to a championship.”

Saskia Millard (Luke Gunn; Herne Hill) earned herself the first automatic qualifying spot for the U20 race at Euro Cross and a second Cross Challenge series win in the women’s U17/20 race in 15:32.

Millard produced a strong run, leading from almost gun to tape to earn her first European Cross Country selection of her career off the back of her European U20 Championship 3000m performance that saw her home fifth on British debut.

She held off the challenge of Izzy Fry (Mick Woods; Newbury) and Megan Keith (Ross Cairns; Inverness) in the home straight, clocking 15:33 and 15:34 respectively to secure auto-selections also.

Amelia Samuels (John Abbiss; Wolverhampton & Bilston) secured auto-selection with a fourth place finish in 15:41, while Olivia Mason (Graeme Mason; Border) picked off three runners in the final straight to snatch the fifth auto-selection place in 15:47.

After the race, Millard said: “I had a plan of coming in the top five but didn’t know how that was going to go because I didn’t know how I was running. Cardiff went well but things have been up and down since then and I wanted to come here and run a good race.

“I’ve never rub here before but I’d heard the start was really quick so we’ve been practicing that in training. I tried to stay with the front pack and ended up leading quite a lot of the race and I gave it everything on the last straight to make sure and I don’t think I’ve ever tried that hard in my life.

“We’d planned a track season but had no plans for this and targeted next summer as getting back in form and this is massive for me because I’m well ahead of schedule.”

In the U17 women’s division of the race, Anna Hedley (Fife AC) secured victory by almost half a minute in 15:59, but Maya Todd-McIntyre (Graham Moffatt; Rushcliffe) maintained her lead at the top of the standings, backing up her second place in Milton Keynes with a 16:30 effort.

Hannah Anderson (East Kilbride) finished a further five seconds back to take third spot and fourth went the way of Freya Stapleton (Shaftesbury Barnet), stopping the clock in 16:42.

The men’s U17 race was won by Louis Small (Ashford) for a first win of the series, edging out Sam Martin (Guildford & Godalming), with Johnny Livingstone (Exeter) and Archie Lowe () having identical times of 18:33, taking third and fourth place respectively.

Kiya Dee (Highworth) made it three from three in the Under-15 girls race as she dug deep in the final stages and cut the tape in 10:59 with a three second lead over Grace Roberts (Vale Royal), who took second spot.

Elsie Robinson (Robert Griffiths; Saffron AC) occupied third spot in 11:09, whilst Scarlett Livingstone (Exeter) survived a late scare on the home straight to secure fourth spot in 11:17, with Isla Thoms (Fife) and Gabby Hodson (Katie Hewison; Chorley) both finishing one second further back.

Lewis Sullivan (St Edmund Pacers) repeated his feat from Cardiff in taking his second series win in the Under-15 boys race, stopping the clock in 9:50.

Ben Peck (Thetford) maintained his lead atop the series standings with a second place finish in 9:58, holding off the challenge of Joshua Blevins (Lee Morgan; North Shields Poly) and Ethan Scott (Trevor Raggett; WSEH), who finished in 10:01 and 10:03 respectively.

Alden Collier (Chiltern Harriers) took his second victory of the series in the Under-13 boys with a comprehensive 13-second victory nearest challenger Oliver Patton (Kilbarchan), the duo clocking 10:41 and 10:54 respectively.

In the girls’ equivalent, Zoe Gilbody (Chiltern) continued her perfect start to the season with a strong performance to extend her Cross Challenge series lead, clocking 11:06 for victory, with Abigail Reid (John Stow; Woodford Green Essex Ladies) following her home in 11:19. The under-11 victories went the way of Charlie Collins in 6:53 and Molly Carvell in 7:30 in the opening races of the day.