Mahamed Mahamed (coach: Peter Haynes; club: Southampton AC) and Kate Avery (Terrence Mahon; Shildon) retained their places at the top of the Cross Challenge standings as they took impressive victories in Milton Keynes.
Avery stopped the clock in 18:14 in a tightly contested race that saw her kick away at the vital moment from Jessica Piasecki (Robert Hawkins; Stockport), to take maximum points, with the latter coming home five seconds behind.
Jess Judd (Mick Judd; Chelmsford) put in another positive performance after her fourth place finish in Cardiff, as she came home third, while Pippa Woolven (Wycombe) finished fourth, only 10 seconds behind eventual winner Avery.
After struggling to get back to top form over recent years, Avery feels that she is back in the form of her life and ready to push for her spot on the European Cross Country team at the trials in Liverpool later this month.
She said: “I’m over the moon with that. Training has been going much better since the race in Cardiff and I wanted to be really strong and didn’t want it to be a slow pace from the start, so I tried to push it on a bit.
“It slowed down again but I picked it up at the end when it mattered. It’s a little shorter than Liverpool and Europeans will be which is what helped make it so close but it was still tough.
“Over the last two to three years, I doubted whether this would be possible to run like I have been this season. I doubted I’d get back to winning but I’d be over the moon to make the team for the European Cross.
“You question yourself when you’re not seeing the improvements that you’d like but since the end of the track season, I’ve turned such a big corner and to win here is amazing.”
In slippery conditions following a torrential downpour, Mahamed found an extra burst of energy in the final 200m to pull away from Oliver Fox (Richard Llewellyn Eaton; Wells City), and take consecutive victories in Milton Keynes, having shaved nearly two minutes off his 2017 time on the same course.
Alex Teuten (Roderick Lock; Southampton AC) followed his clubmate home in third place on his first outing of the season in 27:35, with John Millar continuing his good start to the season, clocking 27:38 to take fourth.
In yet another tough race, Mahamed showed his strength on the Cross Challenge circuit and is ready to give his all to make the European team in a fortnight.
“It was hard again, it was another really strong field but I got the job done and now it’s onto Liverpool. Cardiff was a close race but I felt so much stronger today than I did then. I have to get back into the right mindset to perform well in Liverpool.
“I won and it’s job done from me for another week, but in two weeks it’s the really big test for me. Everyone will come out fired up in Liverpool and it’s winner takes all. I’m feeling ready and I really want to take something from that race and get into the team that travels out to Tilburg.”
Khahisa Mhlanga (Mick Judd; Herts Phoenix) powered away at the perfect time to win a scrappy U17/U20 women’s race in 16:08, with U17 Charlotte Alexander (Herne Hill Harriers) the closest to her in 16:22.
Charlotte Dannatt (Camberley & District), who was third overall, took second in the U20 race, followed by Kate O’Neil (Patrick Gahagan; Havering). Olivia Mason (Graeme; Border) claimed second in the U17 classification, with European U18 Championship 800m gold medallist, Keely Hodgkinson (Margaret Galvin; Leigh), third in 17:13.
Matt Willis (Wrexham) took his first victory of the season in his first race in the combined Men’s U17/U20 race, with a complete performance that got him home in 16:50, 10 seconds clear of Zakariya Mahamed (Peter Haynes; Southampton AC).
Willis looked composed throughout the race and led from the front alongside Mahamed, shifting through the gears to win late on, with Euan Brennan (Ilkley Harriers) taking a strong third place in 17:08. Mohamed Ali (Steve Mann; Ealing Southall & Middlesex) pushed his rivals all the way and took the maximum points for the U17 classification, finishing fourth overall in 17:12, with Hamish Armitt (Giffnock North) and Matthew Mackay (Rosendale Harriers) further back in 17:25 and 17:26 respectively.
Anna Hedley (Fife AC) took a first win of the season in the U15 Girls race, clocking 14:30 on her way over the line, followed by Hattie Reynolds (North Norfolk Harriers), who was 10 seconds further back, with Ines Curran (Gateshead Harriers; Janice Lawton) third in 14:44.
The U15 boys race saw Lewis Sullivan (St Edmunds Pacers) pip Fraser Sproul (Kendal AC) by just three seconds as he cut the tape first in 13:04. A tight battle for third saw Sam Smith (Wharfedale Harriers) emerge on top in 13:26.
In a reverse of the Under-13s result in Cardiff, Scarlett Livingstone (Exeter Harriers) edged out Josie Robertson (Newbury AC) by a five-second margin, winning in 10:06, while Isaac Morris (Mark Vile; Cambridge & Coleridge) charged to victory in 9:12, pipping Benjamin Peck (Thetford AC) by three seconds & William Rabjohns (Poole AC) by six seconds.
The series will resume in Liverpool at Sefton Park for the European Cross Country trials on Saturday, 24 November.