Fionnuala Britton continues her dominance with victory at Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country
Although many may have predicted Fionnuala Britton’s victory in the women’s 6km, this year’s Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country threw up its fair share of surprises.
Britton, who made history in Budapest last month when she became the first woman to retain the European cross-county title, continued her fine form in Holyrood Park, leading from the outset to also retain this crown.
The 28-year-old Irish athlete wasn’t alone in her early dominance, however, as Great Britain’s Jess Coulson was stalking her heels. It was a battle of the European champions as under-23 winner Coulson worked hard to stick with the senior champion, but it wasn’t to be, despite a late slip from Britton on a course which was relatively firm and not as boggy as expected considering recent rain.
Britton powered to the finish a clear leader, covering the 6km course in 20:40. Her European team-mate Adrienne Herzog of the Netherlands crossed the line 16 seconds later, followed by USA’s Mattie Suver in third, Coulson in fourth and Portugal’s Ana Dulce Felix in fifth. Britain’s Julia Bleasdale might have been hoping for a higher position than her eventual 8th, which was the same place she achieved in both the 5000m and 10,000m at the London Olympics.
Britton’s success also helped secure victory in the team event. GB led going into the women’s race but points accumulated in that final race saw Europe win overall with 154 points ahead of GB’s 175 and USA’s 201.
Speaking afterwards Britton said: “I didn’t think it would be like that. Everyone was holding back and no one really came up so I had to push on from there. We weren’t in first place going into the last race so it’s nice to win.”
The men’s 8km race was harder to call, with Britain’s Tom Humphries gaining a decent lead on the chasing pack which included fellow Brit Andy Vernon, who went out hard from the off, USA’s Bobby Mack and Spain’s Ayad Lamdassem.
With a slight change of pace at the start of the last lap, Humphries continued to hold his ground but didn’t seem to have left enough in the tank for that final surge. Lamdassem saw his opportunity and kicked hard to attack, but it was the sprint from Mack that made the finish an exciting one, as he drove hard over the line to pip Lamdassem and win in 24:27.
Andy Vernon continued the form that has seen him make a good comeback after a stress fracture ruled him out for the majority of the track season. Crossing the line in 24:29 he narrowly saw off Humphries who has been battling with a long-term hip problem.
Speaking after the race, Humphries said he doesn’t plan to run the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Poland in March and instead his main aim this year is the track and a crack at breaking 13:15 for 5000m.
“Training has been going well. I just wanted to run hard from the start,” the former English National and UK Inter-Counties champion explained. “It’s hopefully a platform to the next level again.”
Last year’s runner-up Mack commented that the course suited him well.
“I really like a challenging course,” he said. “I was able to finish hard and find my rhythm.”
The women’s 3km event was certainly the cream of the crop in terms of international competitors and didn’t disappoint, Meseret Defar making the most of her rare cross-country appearance to provide an exciting battle between her, Kenya’s Linet Masai and fellow Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba.
An impressive turn of pace from Dibaba in the closing stages saw her run away with a commanding win, crossing the line in 9:46, five seconds ahead of Defar. Masai narrowly pipped Ethiopia’s Sofia Assefa to third, with Cheruiyot finishing fifth.
The British challenge was led by Lisa Dobriskey and Charlene Thomas, but it was Emily Stewart who really proved herself in Edinburgh, securing sixth place with her fine effort of 10:05. Dobriskey followed her home two seconds later ahead of Stevie Stockton, who crossed the line in 10:19.
Elsewhere, European junior cross-country silver medallist Emelia Gorecka took an expected and convincing win in the under-20 race, crossing the line in 13:46.
The Aldershot, Farnham & District athlete pulled away from Jessica Judd after five minutes of the 4km race and went on to lead a GB top six.
Judd held on for second ahead of the fast-finishing Rebecca Weston.
The men’s race saw a tight finish, with Croatia’s Dino Bosnjak crossing the line first in 19:01 ahead of Belgium’s Isaac Kimeli, who finished a second later and USA’s Craig Nowak a second after that.
1 Fionnula Britton (IRE) 20:40
2 Adrienne Herzog (NED) 20:56
3 Mattie Suver (USA) 21:00
4 Jess Coulson (GBR) 21:05
5 Ana Dulce Felix (POR) 21:06
1 Bobby Mack (USA) 24:27
2 Ayad Lamdassem (ESP) 24:28
3 Andy Vernon (GBR) 24:29
4 Tom Humphries (GBR) 24:32
5 Sergiy Lebid (UKR) 24:32
1 Genzebe Dibaba (ETH) 9:46
2 Meseret Defar (ETH) 9:51
3 Linet Masai (KEN) 9:55
4 Sofia Assefa (ETH) 9:56
5 Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN) 10:05
Junior men’s 6km
1 Dino Bosnjak (CRO) 19:01
2 Isaac Kimeli (BEL) 19:02
3 Craig Nowak (USA) 19:03
4 Jonathan Davies (GBR) 19:07
5 Johannes Motschmann (GER) 19:08
Junior women’s 4km
1 Emelia Gorecka (GBR) 13:46
2 Jessica Judd (GBR) 13:59
3 Rebecca Weston (GBR) 14:01
4 Alex Clay (GBR) 14:04
5 Bobby Clay (GBR) 14:04
OVERALL TEAM STANDINGS
1 Europe 154
2 Great Britain 175
3 USA 201
» See next week’s Athletics Weekly for a full report, results and pictures from Edinburgh