25th November 2023


Megan Keith and Hugo Milner were among the winners at the British Athletics Cross Challenge at Sefton Park in Liverpool on Saturday (25) as several athletes booked their places on the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team for the European Cross Country Championships.

Megan Keith (Ross Cairns, Inverness) continued her fine cross country form as she took a commanding win in the senior women’s race, winning by almost a minute from Abbie Donnelly (Rob Lewis, Lincoln Wellington).

Keith – silver medallist in the U23 race at the European Cross Country Championships in 2022 – was first across the line after making the decisive move early in the race. She broke free from a strong field after the first lap and shew went on as to win her second Cross Challenge race in a row after an impressive win in Cardiff a fortnight ago.

Keith, an under 23 athlete, was ahead of Donnelly, who was also a clear second from Izzy Fry (Newbury), while last year’s winner Jessica Warner-Judd (Mick Judd, Blackburn Harriers) came through for fourth place to book a slot on a British cross country team once again.

Alexandra Millard (Bill Foster, Invicta East Kent), the U23 bronze medallist from the Euros in Turin, was again in good form as she finished fifth overall; second U23. A little further back Amelia Quirk (Mick Woods, Bracknell) came through strongly to pip Poppy Tank (Luke Gunn, City of Plymouth) for sixth place.

Post race, Megan Keith said, “It was tough but I was just trying to test myself by turning the screw as the race went on. I am happy with how I did it but it was really tough out there. It is an unforgiving course, but it was a good test of my strengths.

“I love the competition of the European Cross, and I am learning how to race these better each year, so I am excited to see how I get on in Brussels.”

The senior men’s race saw Hugo Milner (Derby) capture the title ahead of Rory Leonard (Morpeth) as the athletes battled over testing terrain in the final race of the day.

Powering across the mud, Milner had a significant lead as the athletes entered their third of three laps, with European U23 10,000m champion Leonard narrowly ahead of Jack Rowe (Tim Eglen, Aldershot Farnham and District) and Zakariya Mahamed (Idris Hamud, Southampton) at that stage.

By the time the athletes turned into the final straight, it was Milner who was way clear to secure his first senior win in Liverpool.

A fast-finishing Matt Stonier (Sonia and Chris McGeorge) [U23] came through to bag second place ahead of Rowe and Leonard who looked destined for the top three placings until the Invicta East Kent athlete unleashed a devastating sprint for the line. 2022 Inter Counties champion Callum Johnson (Gateshead) came through for fifth ahead of Mahamed after a solid race.

Afterwards, Milner said, “I’m really pleased with the race, I felt really good. To be honest I wasn’t expecting to win it as I am in a big training block for triathlon; I’m swimming, biking and running a lot so I didn’t get a chance to taper very much for this. I went for it on that second lap, and no one went with me.

“I have raced over this course since I was an U11, so I know the course well. I have had many bad races around here, so it was about time I had a good race here. I turned round with 200m to go, and no one was there, so it was great for me.”

Earlier in the programme, Josh Lay (Anthony Love, Rugby & Northampton) and Bethan Morley (Bill Foster, Leeds) were victors in the senior short course relay trial and both athletes qualified for the European Cross Country Championships as a result.

Lay won the battle with Tom Dodd (Luke Gunn, Birchfield), Adam Fogg (Coventry) and Alex Melloy (Mark Vile, Cambridge and Coleridge) in a frantic sprint finish to earn his first call up to a senior GB & NI cross country team. After timing his race to perfection, Lay moved away in the final few metres to smash through the tape at the finish line.

In the battle for second, Dodd and Fogg were neck and neck, but a stumble in the final few strides saw Dodd fall and he was passed by Fogg and Melloy and would ultimately finish in fourth place.

In the women’s relay trial race, Morley was a surprise winner as she came through to convincingly take the victory. She faced a battle with Khahisa Mhlanga (Andrew Hobdell, Herts Phoenix) and Kate Axford (Belgrave) for much of the race, but in the final home straight she pulled away to seal the biggest win of her career to date to book her spot in the British team heading to Brussels next month.

Mhlanga – part of the relay team at the 2022 Euro Cross – finished in second with Axford closely following by two seconds.

Innes Fitzgerald (Exeter) repeated her commanding performance from the 2022 edition as she once again triumphed in the U20 / U17 women’s race to book her place at the Europeans next month.

After opening a sizable lead on the opening lap, the Exeter athlete – who won at the Cardiff Cross Challenge earlier this month – continued to motor away from her opponents on the second lap and won by over 30 seconds from Jess Bailey (Matthew Long, Leven Valley) who was clear of third place Zoe Hunter (Jethro McGraw, Leeds City).

Under 17 athlete Shaikira King (John Skevington, Wreake & Soar Valley) was fourth overall ahead of Lizzie Wellsted (Colchester) – and U20 – with Katie Pye (Mick Woods, Aldershot Farnham and District) rounding out the top six overall in the race but the second under 17 across the finish line.

Shaftesbury Barnet’s Henry Dover was a dominant winner in the U20 men’s race to take the most significant win of his career as he booked his spot on the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team for Belgium next month.

He led for long stages of the race and such was his advantage, he had enough of a lead to enjoy his celebrations in the final few metres to finish ahead Cardiff winner Sam Hodgson (Shireen Higgins, Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) and Louis Small (Stella Bandu, Ashford).

The latter came through strongly to overtake Sam Mills (Exeter) in the final 50 metres, while Rowan Miell-Ingram (Wendy Miell-Ingram) was fifth overall.

In an entertaining U17 men’s contest, Giffnock North’s Craig Shennan (Dudley Walker) won the race long battle with Oscar Schofield (Trevor Painter, Sale Harriers Manchester) after pulling away in the closing stages. The duo were neck and neck for large parts of the race and as they turned into the final 250m, it was up in the air who would take the full Cross Challenge points. Only a second separated the pair at the finish line, while Andrew McWilliam (Lasswade) was the second Scottish athlete on the podium as he took third, a little further back.

Olivia Forrest (Paul Forrest, Brentwood Beagles) was a clear winner in the U15 girls race ahead of Libby Hale (John Griffiths, Swansea) who narrowly pipped Kitty Scott (Mick Woods, Aldershot Farnham and District) in the race for the line.

In the U15 boys race, Evan Grime (Ian Grime, Salford) was victorious at Sefton Park, just four seconds ahead of Calum Dick (Angela Carson, Giffnock North) with Ray Taylor (Jerome Vareille, Falkirk Victoria Harriers) one second further back.

Cross Challenge U13 winners were Maisie Mullett (John Skevington, Wreake and Soar Valley) and Jack Baranowsk (Blackburn Harriers). Meanwhile, the U11 races were won by Sebastian Palmer (Wolverhampton and Bilston) and Madison Kindler (Paul Forrest, Brentwood Beagles) in the first of the younger age group races of the day.