Sefton Park presented a suitably muddy course for Saturday’s (28 November) Liverpool Cross Challenge as a host of top athletes vied for spots at next month’s championship race at Hyeres, France. The event saw Gemma Steel and Ross Millington secure top billing in their respective fields yet both were made to work extremely hard to ensure victory.
Saturday’s race incorporated the trails for the European Cross Country Championships in France on 13 December. A muddy Sefton Park was therefore the perfect way for British runners to stake a claim for a racing spot at the French Riviera next month.
Steel, victorious in Liverpool in 2013 and 2014, made it a trio of consecutive wins after overcoming the challenges of Kate Avery and Steph Twell. The Charnwood runner finished in 27:31, with Avery just two seconds behind in (27:33) and Twell closely following (27:47).
Steel commented: “I’ve done the hat trick! You can never underestimate the likes of Steph and Kate; I’ve never raced her (Avery) on this course before. I thought I’d slipped up a bit on the final corner and it brought back memories of Samokov. It’s got rid of the rust; it was my first cross country race of the season. It’s given me such a big boost ahead of the Europeans though. It would be nice to win a medal in France and keep my medal winning streak going.”
Millington, in what was his first cross country outing of the year, crossed the line in 30:09, with Swansea Harriers’ Dewi Griffiths second (30:22) and Thomas Lancashire third (30:25). Jonathan Hay secured the final guaranteed spot for France by taking fourth place in 30:31.