Great Britain once again topped the medals table at last weekend's European Cross Country Championships in Belgrade. Strong individual performances in the senior competition by Gemma Steel, who took silver, and bronze for both Andy Vernon, ensured the British team left the Serbian capital with overall victory. The result meant Scottish trio Callum Hawkins, Rhona Auckland and Steph Twell all secured gold medals.
Gemma Steel, who took bronze in the same competition two years ago, finished four seconds behind France's Sophie Duarte to secure silver this time round. She completed the 8k course in 26:39, holding off Dulce Felix of Portugal: "I was chuffed with beating Dulce in a sprint finish. It was nice to beat Fionnuala who has been a big rival over the years. It would have been nice to win today but I couldn't really do anything once she (Duarte) opened the gap up."
Callum Hawkins was competing in the under-23 event and retained a strong challenge until the closing stages. Belgium's Pieter-Jan Hannes pulled away during the sprint finish and the Kilbarchan runner had to settle for seventh place. Hawkins latter commented: "I possibly pushed it on a bit too early but it happened and I just rode with it."
In the senior men's race, Andy Vernon snatched a bronze medal in a thrilling finish with Belgium's Jeroen D'Hoedt as Alemayehu Bezabh of Spain repeated his title win of 2009. Vernon said: "The Belgian came past me quite quickly with about 150m but I sprinted as hard as I could and just got there." Edinburgh University student Rhona Auckland was also seventh in the women's under-23 race, while Steph Twell took 15th in the senior event.
Emelia Gorecka shone in what was her last race as a junior, taking individual gold over the 4k course. The 19-year-old commnented: "It was nice to sign it off and it was never going to be easy. I could have never predicted the top 10 because there are so many different girls." Charlotte Purdue, second at last month's British Athletics Cross Challenge, rounded off the medal haul with bronze in the under-23 competition.