We have heard much about tensions in Europe this week as yet another Brexit deadline looms. Now the GB & NI team are hoping to gain traction in negotiations with European rivals in the 24th European Cross Country Championships in Samorin, Slovakia on Sunday (10 December).
Britain has a proud history in this annual competition, topping the table last year in Italy with 47 medals to Turkey's 30 and Germany's 28. A record 576 athletes representing 37 nations will compete and Britain sends a full squad of 60 runners for the seven race programme that features, for the first time, a mixed relay. Highlights will be shown on BBC 2 at midnight on Sunday (10 December) and repeated at 1pm on Monday (11 December).
Emelia Gorecka (Aldershot - pictured) will lead the senior women's team after a remarkable comeback victory in the trial race at Liverpool last month. Gorecka battled through two years blighted by injury and was the under-20 gold medallist in 2011 and 2013. She will be joined by 2014 European champion Gemma Steel (Charnwood), Aldershot team mates Lily Partridge and Steph Twell, Charlotte Taylor (Nene Valley Harriers) and Stockport’s Elle Vernon.
Ben Connor (Derby) was an impressive trials winner and receives his second selection to head the defending senior men’s team. Connor is joined by debutants Alex Teuten (Southampton) and Sam Stabler (Leicester), who were runners-up at the trials. Completing the squad are previous European representatives Dewi Griffiths (Swansea), Tom Lancashire (Bolton) and Andy Butchart (Central).
Mahamed Mahamed (Southampton) and Jess Judd (Chelmsford) headline the under-23 teams in Slovakia after impressive displays all season. Judd was part of the gold medal U23 women’s team last year and will be joined by Amy Griffiths (Aldershot) and Phoebe Law (Kingston & Poly), who were also part of that squad.
Trials winners Ben Dijkstra (Leicester) and Harriet Knowles-Jones (Warrington) will lead the U20 teams. Knowles-Jones took individual silver in 2015 and bronze last year so will be looking for an upgrade in her final year as a junior. GB also fields a strong quartet in the 4x1500m relay: Cameron Boyek (Shildon), Melissa Courtney (Shaftesbury), Tom Marshall (Cardiff) and Sarah McDonald (Birchfield).
Team Leader, Rob Denmark, commented on the selections: “The trials showcased some real quality and as a result, we are able to select an incredibly strong British team to go to Samorin for these prestigious championships. We are taking some experienced athletes who are proven championship performers but I am pleased to see a number of athletes step up at the trials and earn their place on the team”.