Mahamed Mahamed (coach: Idris Hamud, Southampton) and Alex Millard (Bill Foster, Invicta East Kent) came away with the senior victories at the British Athletics Cross Challenge in Milton Keynes today.
Fast racing was the order of the day as athletes made the most of the hard ground at an unseasonably mild Teardrop Lakes for the second fixture of the series.
The events also incorporated a Home Countries International featuring teams from England, Wales, Northern Ireland, North, Midlands, South and East. Numbers were boosted too by the inclusion of the second leg of the Chiltern League.
Throughout the last lap of three of the senior men’s 9.5km race, it was clear it was going to be a Mahamed win. The only question was: which one? Mahamed senior and brother Zakariya (Idris Hamud. Southampton) were battling it out closely at the front after dropping last year’s winner, Hugo Milner (Derby).
In the end it was Mahamed who pulled away with around 2km to go and went on to cross the line six seconds clear in 27:49.
Alex George (Paul de Camps, Birchfield) was third in 28:16 to make it a 1-2-3 and an overall win for the England team in the match. Milner was fourth and Callum Elson (Cambridge & Coleridge) fifth.
Mahamed said afterwards: “I think there’s a pressure when your brother’s next to you and he wants to beat you but, at the same time, it’s good that we push each other. It was a good race and with these conditions it was nice.”
Like many athletes, he will now be focused on trying to make the GB team for the European Cross Country Championships at Liverpool in two weeks’ time.
Mahamed, who has been on five such teams in the past, said: “Hopefully I can make it into the team and go to the Euro Cross and have fun. I’ve got loads of experience and I’ve really enjoyed it over the years.”
Millard pulled away from a group of three at the end of the second lap to clock 24:11 for the 7.2km distance.
Her training partner, Grace Carson (Bill Foster, Mid Ulster), was second in 24:18 followed by last year’s winner here and British Cross Challenge champion, Jess Gibbon (Reading), a further four seconds back. Cari Hughes (Andrew Walling, Cardiff) and Eloise Walker (Andy Young, Edinburgh) were next across the line while England took the home countries win.
She said on finishing: “It was a really nice group the whole way, which was helpful, running together. I felt pretty chilled, I was just trying to relax because 7.2km is getting on the longer side. We were packing and then people gradually dropped off.
“I managed to find something else going through the woods at the end. I knew I had an all-right finish if I was feeling pretty chilled.”
Millard missed out by one place on making the under-23 team for the Euro Cross last year, particularly unfortunate as her birthday made her one day out from being an under-20. She said: “It was frustrating but I’ve got two more years under-23, this year and next year so hopefully I can do it this year.”
The 7.2km under-20 race fell to Luke Birdseye (Shireen Higgins, Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow), who pulled clear with 2km to go up a hill. He was five seconds in front of Rowan Miell-Ingram (Radley) with 22:08 as Matthew Ramsden (Blackburn) was third in 22:15.
Birdseye, who led the South to the home countries team honours, said: “I just tried to drive home to the finish, and I just managed to get a gap. I’m really happy with that. It went exactly as I planned, to be honest.
“I wasn’t sure how I was going to do today. I think, after last week (second on the first leg of the English Cross Country Relays), I had a lot of confidence and, coming into this week, I just felt good; I just went for it — I trusted myself and it paid off.
Alice Bates (Shane Smith, Kettering) pulled away in the last half-kilometre of the under-20 5km to win by three seconds.
She clocked 17:29 as Beatrice Wood (Dave Amey, City of Salisbury) followed and Megan Harris (Hayley Hemmings, Chelmsford) was third in 17:34.
In fifth overall, Sophie Nicholls (Simon Prior, Wells City) was top under-17 (17:51) from Yasmin Kashdan (Vince Golding, Crawley) in 18:19 and Lilia Harris (Richard Harris, Rotherham) in 18:29.
Bates said afterwards: “The plan was to sit on the smaller lap, which I did quite comfortably, and then, with 1km or 2km to go, try and stretch the lead, which I did. I think it was the last 500m where I managed to stretch away. I’m definitely happy about it because I did not feel as good as I had hoped to. But I came away with the win so I can’t be disappointed.”
Bates, who was pleased with the dry course as she said she did not do much cross-country specific work, added she was feeling more hopeful of making the Euro Cross team this year. Talking of last year, she said: “I was caught up with other things. I was sort of distracted. I probably wasn’t in the best place mentally to be competing at a high level but this year it’s looking a lot better.”
Under-17 winner Connor Bell (Central AC) made the most of the steep mini-hill early in the second lap before pulling away to a 20-second margin with a time of 18:17. After making a break on the short descent, he was eventually able to ease off a little.
“I felt comfortable and cruised home,” he said after 5.9km of running.
Millie Gold (Mark Gold, Cardiff) was just fourth at her home Cross Challenge fixture last month but here won the under-15 race over 4.4km. Her time of 16:13 put her five seconds ahead of Holly Cross (John Cross, Liverpool) as Isla McGowan (Banbury) was third in 16:20.
George Wilson (Joanna Evans; Cleethorpes) moved up from second in Cardiff to take the under-15 boys’ 4.4km race in 14:00. After the first lap, he had just Matthew Clark (Andy Bibby; Preston) for company but he stretched away to a 16-second win. Clark kept hold of second in 14:16, with Ollie Calvert (Morpeth) third in 14:24.
In the under-13 girls’ race, Kara Gorman (Chiltern, Nick Hughes) finished strongly, moving up from third after the first lap to take the win in the 3.1km race, clocking 11:24. Second and six seconds behind was Bryony Boyce (Cardiff, Mark Gold), the winner at the Cardiff fixture and the leader for much of the race. Luan Power (John Skevington, Wreake & Soar Valley) was third, a further four seconds behind.
Noah Homer (John Skevington, Wreak & Soar Valley) held a big lead much of the way around the 3.1km under-13 boys’ race, coming home eventually 14 seconds clear in 10:32.
Rhuairidh Laing (Victoria Park City of Glasgow), the winner in the opening Cross Challenge race, was second. The local Jacque Smith (Barry Hearn; Marshall Milton Keynes) was third, another two seconds back.
Starting off the proceedings, it was Hannah Lucas (Bracknell AC), who took the under-11 girls’ race, adding to her win in the opening Chiltern League fixture.
Next up were the boys, who were led by Reuben Gray (Banbury), who had been third in the first Chiltern League race.