11 Dec

Butchart Stars As GB Top The Medals

Great Britain topped the medal table at the European Cross Country Championships in Slovakia and Scots Andy Butchart, Steph Twell, Cameron Boyak and Mhairi MacLennan all played a big part in the success as GB left with five gold medals and four bronze.

Butchart once again proved his class at international level, a year after finishing fourth when Callum Hawkins took third in Italy, the Central AC athlete led the GB and NI men to team bronze medals in the Senior Men’s race – ensuring successive bronze medals for Scottish athletes. Butchart led at points in the race, but eventually had to settle for third after being passed by Kigen Ozbilen of Turkey and silver medalist Adel Mechaal of Spain.

“It was very different to last year,” said Andy.

“With the weather being so cold this year, training had to be different but out on the racecourse it went perfectly. It went exactly how I wanted it to go and I was confident from the start knowing I was in reasonable shape.

“The last lap was frustrating, once they were gone they were gone and on this sort of course there is no way of catching them. I wish I could have stayed with them but I lost a bit of concentration and that’s all it takes. I’m happy with the bronze medal and hopefully there will be many more to come.”

Harriet Knowles-Jones was Britain's sole individual champion as she swept the opposition aside in her final year as an under-20 junior after securing silver in 2015 and bronze last year.

The British senior women made no mistake in improving from silver last year to gold this time. Charlotte Taylor (Nene Valley Harriers, 6th) ran a brilliant race to lead the team with Emelia Gorecka (Aldershot, 8th) and former European champion Gemma Steel (Charnwood, 9th) securing gold.

The newly introduced Senior Mixed Relay was another GB gold medal highlight as Melissa Courtney (Shaftesbury), Cameron Boyek (Shildon), Sarah McDonald (Birchfield) and Tom Marshall (Cardiff) had too much gas in the tank for the Czech Republic and Spain. Three seconds covered the medal winners in the closest race of the day.

Both Britain's junior women teams struck gold as Harriet Knowles-Jones (Warrington) celebrated twice on the top step of the podium at under-20 and Jess Judd (Chelmsford) led the under-23 team to gold with an individual bronze. Every woman’s team member took home a golden memento in the most remarkable statistic of the day. 

Meanwhile, bronze was considered mission accomplished for the under-20 men, headed by Mahamed Mahamed (Southampton, 12th).  The under-20 juniors were sixth, with Matt Willis (Wrexham, 14th) the leading finisher.