Garrett Heath beats Asbel Kiprop and Kenenisa Bekele at Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country, with Gemma Steel and Bobby Clay also among winners
A win for Gemma Steel in the senior women’s race made sure that the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country ended on a high for the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team on Saturday.
A strong showing from British athletes in the final race of the day really shook up the final team standings, as GB moved from third to first to end the day on 159 points ahead of Europe’s 172 and USA’s 203.
Though sitting bottom on team points, victory in the senior men’s race did go to an American athlete, as long-time leader Chris Derrick held on to his advantage to finish clear of Britain’s runner-up Andy Vernon. Victory in the men’s 4km international race went to an American too, as Garrett Heath saw off the likes of Asbel Kiprop and Kenenisa Bekele for short-course victory at Holyrood Park.
There were six British athletes in the the top 10 of the senior women’s race, led by team captain Steel. Featuring in a lead pack alongside the likes of Emelia Gorecka, who was making her senior international debut, Ireland’s two-time Great Edinburgh Cross winner Fionnuala Britton and senior Euro Cross champion Sophie Duarte of France, the two British runners began to stretch the group, leading with one lap to go.
But as Steel proved her strength to pull away, Gorecka, who won gold in the under-20 race at the European Cross Country championships in December, began to tire and was caught by Britton on the final hill. Euro Cross silver medallist Steel’s 20:35 for the 6km course was more than enough to deny Britton her third consecutive victory, the Irishwoman clocking 20:44 for second. Gorecka hung on for third in 20:51 for a very positive debut performance, finishing ahead of Duarte and Britain’s Charlotte Purdue, who claimed under-23 bronze in Serbia.
Other British athletes in the top-10 were Lily Partridge (seventh), Steph Twell (ninth) and Chloe Richardson (tenth).
The senior men’s title remains with the United States as Derrick, part of the silver medal-winning American team at the World Cross Country Championships alongside last year’s Great Edinburgh Cross winner Bobby Mack, dominated to clock 24:11 and finish ten seconds clear.
A dip finish wasn’t required from runner-up Vernon in Edinburgh as it was in Belgrade where he claimed Euro Cross bronze as he won the battle for second from Belgian athlete Bashir Abdi well before the final stretch, allowing him to cross the line six seconds clear.
Callum Hawkins was the next British athlete over the line, finishing sixth, while Jonny Hay also secured a top-10 spot.
Both Bekele and Kiprop were beaten in the men’s 4km international as Heath ran a well-judged race to claim victory in 11:51.
The American, winner of last September’s Bupa Great North Mile, was the stronger in a sprint finish against Meresa Kahsay, the Ethiopian finishing a second behind. Also lacking the necessary speed at the end, world 1500m champion Kiprop was unable to retain his short-course title, claimed in 2012. The Kenyan clocked 11:58 for third ahead of his countryman James Magut, while former world and Olympic champion Bekele, competing at his sixth Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country, finished fifth.
The Ethiopian, who has eleven World Championship titles over both the long and short courses to his name, wasn’t as comfortable on the country on this occasion, as he builds up to making his marathon debut in Paris in April. He later said how the 4km course is too short for him now as he builds up the miles for the spring.
“I knew before I came I was unlikely to have enough speed in my legs,” said Bekele. “I just haven’t had the time to do any training for a short distance. I’ve been running almost 150 miles a week in my marathon preparations.”
Chris Thompson, who is also taking on 26.2 miles in April but in London, was the first British athlete over the line, followed by Jonathan Taylor.
Meanwhile, the junior women’s 4km produced not just a GB top three but also a sibling one-two.
Bobby Clay (pictured above, middle) shared the lead in the first lap with fellow Euro Cross representative Lydia Turner but pulled away to win by four seconds. Meanwhile, behind her, older sister Alex was moving up from fourth to second and ahead of Turner.
In the junior men’s 6km, Europe took a one-two as France’s Alexis Miellet overtook Italy’s Ethiopian-born Yemaneberhan Crippa coming into the finishing straight.
Any hopes of the Italian, who had led for much of the race, catching the fast-finishing Euro Cross 14th placer were destroyed as he seemed to almost head off course through a gap in the finishing straight. Miellet’s margin of victory was thus a flattering seven seconds.
Alex George was top Brit in eighth – 17 seconds behind the winner.
Video highlights can be found here.
1 Gemma Steel (GBR) 20:35
2 Fionnuala Britton (IRL) 20:44
3 Emelia Gorecka (GBR) 20:51
4 Sophie Duarte (FRA) 20:57
5 Charlotte Purdue (GBR) 20:59
1 Chris Derrick (USA) 24:11
2 Andy Vernon (GBR) 24:21
3 Bashir Abdi (BEL) 24:27
4 Bobby Mack (USA) 24:28
5 Michael Mulhare (IRE) 24:32
1 Garrett Heath (USA) 11:51
2 Meresa Kahsay (ETH) 11:52
3 Asbel Kiprop (KEN) 11:58
4 James Magut (KEN) 12:00
5 Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) 12:02
Junior women’s 4km
1 Bobby Clay (GBR) 13:59
2 Alex Clay (GBR) 14:03
3 Lydia Turner (GBR) 14:10
4 Sofia Ennaoui (POL) 14:13
5 Harriet Knowles-Jones (GBR) 14:18
Junior men’s 6km
1 Alexis Miellet (FRA) 19:07
2 Yemaneberhan Crippa (ITA) 19:14
3 Michael Maton (USA) 19:16
4 Tanner Anderson (USA) 19:16
5 Maxime Hueber-Moosbrugger (FRA) 19:20
OVERALL TEAM STANDINGS
Great Britain 159
» See next week’s Athletics Weekly for a full report, results and pictures from Edinburgh