Charlotte Dannatt (coach: Alan Driver; county: Surrey) and Mahamed Mahamed (Hampshire) headlined the victors at the Inter Counties Championships in Loughborough, as Kate Avery (North East) and Mahamed took the senior Cross Challenge titles.
Dannatt took arguably the biggest win of her cross country career as she kicked powerfully to win the senior women’s race in 43:01 and claim her maiden Inter Counties crown.
She was in the leading group throughout the race and with one lap remaining, began to string the field out and opened up a good lead from Jessica Gibbon (Oxfordshire), who came second in 43:08, with Phillipa Williams (North East) third in 43:13, while Kate Avery retained her series title courtesy of a fifth place finish.
Dannatt, who was supposed to be at the World University Games today, admits she did not know how to celebrate her success but admits after her late entry, a Cross Challenge series win means just as much.
She said: “I don’t really win many things so I didn’t know how to celebrate but I can’t believe that I’d done it.
“I should be in Morocco at the World University Games but that got cancelled and I didn’t know what to expect coming here and my coach always tells me off for listening to my watch but as I was going through the kilometres I was thinking ‘I’m still in the lead’ but I couldn’t relax until the last five metres.
“This definitely makes up for missing that, I’d never in a million years thought I’d win, a stellar run for me would have been a podium but this is a great result for me.”
Yorkshire retained the team title courtesy of Jennifer Walsh and Claire Duck leading the way in respective seventh and 11th positions.
In a another hard-fought senior men’s race, Mahamed and Adam Hickey (Eamonn Martin; Essex) fought it out from the offset but it was the former who reclaimed his Inter Counties title
He kicked with around two kilometres to do go and opened up a 15-second winning margin from 2019 Inter Counties champion Hickey, clocking 37:21 and 37:36 respectively.
Tom Evans (Allison Benton; Sussex) took the final spot on the podium in 38:15 with yet another strong run as he rounded off his Cross Country season in style.
For Mahamed, it was a return to form and a third successive Cross Challenge title for the Hampshire man and retaining the title is another special moment for him.
“It’s a great feeling to have the title back and I’m delighted that I managed to win again on this course. Adam is a really strong runner and he pushed me all the way once again.
“Compared to previously, I found the run quite hard but I had time to have a look around at the end and could take in the victory once again and celebrate.
“Every title that I win on the grass is special and this one is just as special as the first. To win three in a row is an incredible feat.”
It was English National champion Callum Johnson who led the North East to the team title with a fifth place finish in 38:37, with Yorkshire runners-up in second, with Sussex third with 203, 221 and 256 points respectively.
The Under-20 men’s race, the first race of the day, went the way of Euro Cross team gold medallist Matt Stonier (Peter Mullervy; Kent) in 31:37, with Josh Cowperthwaite (Martin Peevor; North East) and Henry McLuckie (Geoff Watkin; Hampshire) locking out the podium places in 31:44 and 31:51 respectively.
With the opening exchanges proving to be a cagey affair, Stonier made his move in the back field to pass long-time leader Cowperthwaite and win his first Inter Counties title.
Victory also saw Stonier take his first Cross Challenge title and expressed his delight at being crowned the new inter counties and Cross Challenge champion.
He said: “I made my move on the last hill before the final field, Josh had been leading for about a kilometre and I thought I’d have a go given I had a tailwind to play with. I felt good, early on it was a bit slow but I maintained my pace when others were dropping off and in the home straight I was semi-celebrating and semi-hurting.
“It’s my first win of any kind like this and I wanted to take it in as much as I could. I knew I was in good form and it proved today. I missed the English Nationals but that’s proved a blessing in disguise given I won today.”
The team title went the way of Cambridgeshire, who had three athletes in the top 10, led by the efforts of Oliver Newman in seventh place, with Tom Keen (Mark Vile) and Nicolas Harhalakis (Mark Vile) in ninth and tenth place respectively. Kent took second position, with defending champions Yorkshire having to settle for third.
Megan Keith (Ross Cairns; Scotland North) cruised to the Under-20 women’s Cross Challenge title and her maiden Inter Counties title in 23:34, winning by more than half a minute from Imogen Wood (Cornwall AC).
Kate O’Neill (Patrick Gahagan; Essex) took third spot, ten seconds further back but the day was all about Keith, who admitted her race execution wasn’t it’s best but was thrilled to end the Cross Country on such a high
“It [the race] didn’t unfold as I planned,” she assessed. “I wanted some more girls to come with me at the start but as it was, I went out at a fair pace, realised I was on my own and then it was a long grind to the end but it was nice it didn’t come down to a sprint finish.
“I’ve never run here before or at the Inter Counties Championships and if I could get myself in position I hoped I’d be able to get a good position but as it is, I surpassed all expectations.”
Euro Cross U20 team gold medallist Will Barnicoat (Trevor Raggett; Surrey) backed up his English National crown by becoming the Under-17 boys Inter Counties champion in 20:41, with Oliver Smart (Devon), who claimed the series title, and Hamish Reilly (Steve Fury; Kent) completing the top three in 20:52 and 20:55 respectively.
Kent were named the team champions courtesy of three runners inside the top ten, with Devon taking second place and Lancashire taking third, the totals being 41, 64 and 69 points respectively.
Having won on the opening weekend of the series in Cardiff, Bea Wood (Wiltshire) rounded off the Under-17 Girls series with her second victory of the series in 20:59 from Bethany Cook (Sussex), while Maya Todd-McIntyre (Graeme Moffatt; Nottinghamshire) claimed third in 21:16.
Todd-McIntyre’s third place finish saw her hold off Anna Hedley (Scotland East) to take the Cross Challenge title, while Hedley’s Scotland East won the team event from Scotland West.
The Under-15 boys race saw Lewis Sullivan power to an eight-second victory from Christopher Perkins (North East), clocking 14:30 and 14:38 respectively to win the race and pinch the series title.
Suffolk comfortably claimed the team title as Sullivan was flanked by Ben Peck in fifth place, with Oliver Hitchcock and James Peck all inside the top 20.
In the girls’ equivalent, Kiya Dee (Gloucestershire) completed a perfect Cross Challenge series as she took a fifth consecutive series win in 16:24 as she held off the challenge of Hannah Ryding (Scotland West), who took second in 16:34.
Cheshire took their only team victory of the day owed largely to Holly Weedall (Cheshire), who claimed third position in 17:02, flanked by Grace Roberts, who was fifth six seconds further back.
Despite losing her shoe midway through the race, Zoe Gilbody (Shropshire) secured her fourth win of the series as she took the U13 girls Inter Counties crown and series champion, courtesy of a 13:36 clocking. Shaikira King (Leicestershire & Rutland) and Maisey Bellwood (Yorkshire) took respective second and third place finishes in 14:02 and 14:05 respectively, with Bedfordshire winning the team title with Yorkshire second and Kent in third.
Henry Sheffield (Gloucestershire) took his second victory of the series, following up his win in Cardiff by opening up a winning margin of nearly 50m to cut the tape in 13:12 and take the win. Devon took the team title courtesy of three athletes in the top ten, led by Charlie Hague, who won the overall series crown.