A round-up of Inter-Counties Cross Country Championships and British Athletics Cross Challenge final action in Loughborough

Mahamed Mahamed and Phoebe Law completed brilliant winter seasons by winning the last major event of the season at the Inter-Counties Cross Country Championships, with Mahamed also winning a £2000 first prize as winner of the British Athletics Cross Challenge.

The expected wet weather stayed away but the course was still a quagmire at the superb setting of Prestwold Hall in Loughborough.

Law achieved the very rare feat of winning gold medals in the National, Inter-Counties and South of England Championships. The Kingston athlete, running for Surrey, revelled in the muddy conditions and proved too strong for her opponents in the 8km race. She won in a time of 32:51 to take gold by 42 seconds.

After the race she put her improvement in recent months down to training with Mick Woods’ training group since arriving at St Mary’s.

She has previously won the under-20 race in 2015.

Chasing her home was Leicestershire’s 2012 winner Gemma Steel, who was less at home in the mud and suffered a panic attack at the start and stomach pains during the race. Her time was 33:33.

A delighted third was Lincolnshire’s Abbie Donnelly.

Steel was rewarded for her consistency through the season as she won the overall Cross Challenge series by one point ahead of Law – who was mistakenly announced as the winner of the Challenge on the day. Verity Ockenden – who was 17th here – was third in the Challenge.

Law led Surrey to team victory too.

Phoebe Law Inter Counties 2018 by Mark Shearman

Hampshire’s Mahamed, who won the junior National, proved too strong for a quality senior men’s field on the second half of the 12km race.

Content to initially follow last year’s winner Andy Vernon, the 20-year-old powered away for a big winning margin.

He said: “I wanted to sit in and see how I felt and I felt good. I put a burst in and nobody came with me. I thought Sam, Adam and Andy might work together and so I kept the pressure on on that last lap.”

His time was 42:23 and he had a 49-second winning margin.

Sam Stabler was fourth last year, but this winter was third at Liverpool and ran for Britain at the Europeans, and he continued his good form to take second in 43:12.

Third was senior National champion Adam Hickey in 43:20.

Vernon did not enjoy the mud and found out why it was extra hard when he looked at his spike and saw it was totally ripped on one side and his foot was hanging out!

Mahamed scored 208 points in the Cross Challenge to Stabler’s 206 and Vernon’s 203.

Middlesex won the team title by just four points from Lancashire.

Surrey’s Niamh Brown, like Law, is Mick Woods-coached and has had her best ever winter, and she won the under-20 race in style.

A runner-up in both the Southern and National, she won her first ever Inter-Counties title in 25:48.

Second was Julia Paternain in 25:57 and Olivia Stone was third in 26:17.

The under-17 women’s race saw South of England champion Grace Brock of Cornwall go one better than the National with an assured piece of front-running.

She won in 21:57 20 seconds ahead of Holly Smith, with India Pentland third. National champion Ella McNiven was not at her best and finished fourth.

South of England champion Bethany Cook of Sussex had missed the National with an ankle injury and only made a late decision to race, and though feeling the injury in the ankle-turning mud, she won comfortably with a strong second half in a time of 18:52.

Last year she won the under-13 race and the triathlete pushed Scotland West’s Lily-Jane Evans-Haggerty into second. The Scot had won the Milton Keynes Cross Challenge earlier in the season. Anna Hedley was third.

Last year’s National winner Maisy Luke was only third in the South of England event but she has since retained her National title and here she won comfortably in the 3km event in 14:15.

Second was Beth Rawlinson and third Holly Weedall.

Tom Mortimer was running in the colours of Gloucestershire, but based at Loughborough, it was very much a home win in the under-20 men’s race. He timed 29:49, 31 seconds up on Nathan Dunn and European junior 1500m champion Jake Heyward won bronze.

North of England champion Rory Leonard, who fell heavily in the National and dropped out, here won the under-17 race easily in 20:34 well clear of South of England champion Thomas Keen. Zak Mahamed, the younger brother of senior winner Mahamed, took bronze.

The under-15 men’s race was one of the tightest of the day, and Will Barnicoat of Surrey won in 17:58 from team-mate Sam Martin. Liam Rawlings was third.

William Rabjohns of Dorset has dominated the under-13 boys age group this winter and he made it a clean sweep of South, National and Inter-Counties titles with a win in 12:39. Second was Joshua Blevins.

Yorkshire won the overall title over 10 age groups.

» See the March 15 edition of AW magazine for further coverage