Olympic 5000m finalist overcomes strong men’s Cross Challenge line-up, while Gemma Steel clinches the women’s race

Andrew Butchart produced a dominant performance to win the senior men’s race at the British Athletics Cross Challenge in Liverpool on Saturday, while former European champion Gemma Steel was back to winning ways in the women’s event.

In powering away from the strongest men’s field at these European Cross trials for several years, Butchart showed the sort of form which took him to sixth over 5000m at the Olympics this year.

He covered the fast 9.8km course, which was firmer than usual, in 28:37, crossing the line eight seconds ahead of fellow Scot Callum Hawkins.

Behind Hawkins, who was ninth in the marathon at the Olympics, another Rio team-member, Andrew Vernon, was third.

In the final race of the day, the two Scots began moving away on the first lap en route to forming such a big lead that, were it not for the fact that the heavy morning fog had just finally lifted, they would have been out of sight of the chasing Ross Millington, Ben Connor, Dewi Griffiths, Jonathan Taylor, Vernon and Adam Hickey.

Vernon, who had won the opening leg of the Cross Challenge in Milton Keynes, was surprisingly down in sixth for most of the race but finished strongly on the third and final lap and closed the gap to Hawkins to just 16 seconds by the end. Millington finished fourth to gain the fourth automatic qualifying spot for the Europeans.

The four under-23s to secure places on the team were Jonathan Davies (11th), Patrick Dever (14th), William Christofi (18th) and Ellis Cross (20th).

Butchart, who was second in Liverpool two years ago behind Hawkins, will be expected to challenge for individual medals in the championships in Chia, Italy, in two weeks’ time. Meanwhile, the senior men’s team – so often the weakest category for Britain at the Euro Cross – will be hoping their strong squad can claim the nations’ title.

Steel bounced back to form with her fourth win in a row in Liverpool, beating runner-up Charlotte Arter by one second. The 2014 European champion, who was just fourth in Milton Keynes, pulled away on the second lap after a large leading group had battled it out over the first and clocked 27:11 for the 8.1km course.

Rebecca Murray, the first under-23, was third in 27:13, just pipping the resurgent Katrina Wootton. Behind under-23 Georgina Outten, Emily Hosker-Thornhill gained the fourth and final automatic spot for Chia. Jessica Judd in ninth and Charlotte Taylor in 17th took the other two under-23 berths.

Alex Yee won the junior men’s race, five seconds clear of Mahamed Mahamed. Josh Kerr, Paulos Surafel and William Fuller took the next three places to secure European selection.

Victoria Weir took a surprise win in the under-20 women’s race, overtaking pre-race favourite and last year’s European silver medallist Harriet Knowles-Jones in the last half-kilometre. Hannah Nuttall was third, while Phoebe Law and the first under-17, Amelia Quirk, in fourth and fifth took the remaining automatic Italy places.

The teams will be filled out to six per category based on current form and announced on Monday.

Leading results

Senior/under-23 men: 1 Andy Butchart 28:37; 2 Callum Hawkins 28:45; 3 Andrew Vernon 29:01; 4 Ross Millington 29:02; 5 Dewi Griffiths 29:04; 6 Ben Connor 29:08; 7 Adam Hickey 29:17; 8 Jonny Hay 29:35; 9 Jack Martin 29:35; 10 Charlie Hulson 29:41. Other under-23s: 11 Jonathan Davies 29:42; 14 Patrick Dever 29:48; 18 William Christofi 29:54; 20 Ellis Cross 29:56; 21 Christopher Olley 29:57; 22 Joe Steward 29:58

Senior under-20 women: 1 Gemma Steel 27:11; 2 Charlotte Arter 27:12; 3 Rebecca Murray (U23) 27:13; 4 Katrina Wootton 27:13; 5 Georgina Outten (U23) 27:14; 6 Emily Hosker-Thornhill 27:15; 7 Pippa Woolven 27:16; 8 Sonia Samuels 27:20; 9 Jessica Judd (U23) 27:20; 10 Claire Duck 27:28. Other under-23s: 17 Charlotte Taylor 27:59; 22 Mari Smith 28:05

Under-20 men: 1 Alex Yee 20:11; 2 Mahamed Mahamed 20:17; 3 Josh Kerr 20:24; 4 Paulos Surafel 20:24; 5 William Fuller 20:25; 6 Sam Stevens 20:28

Under-20 women: 1 Victoria Weir 14:25; 2 Harriet Knowles-Jones 14:29; 3 Hannah Nuttall 14:43; 4 Phoebe Law 14:44; 5 Gemma Holloway 14:49; 6 Cari Hughes 14:52; 7 Philippa Stone 15:12; 8 Anna MacFadyen 15:13; 9 Laura Stark 15:14; 10 Zoe Wassell 15:14

Under-17 men: 1 Joseph Pollard 17:15; 2 Joshua Cowperthwaite 17:19; 3 Joseph Owen 17:20; 4 Elliot Dee 17:20; 5 Oliver Barbaresi 17:22; 6 Freddie Carcas 17:25

Under-17 women: 1 Amelia Quirk 14:47; 2 Erin Wallace 14:51; 3 Phoebe Barker 15:13; 4 Naomi Lang 15:13; 5 Eloise Walker 15:14; 6 Kirsty Walker 15:28

Under-15 boys: 1 Harris Mier 9:33; 2 Archie May 9:38; 3 Joe Smith 9:38

Under-15 girls: 1 Olivia Mason 10:21; 2 Ella McNiven 10:26; 3 Shannon Flockhart 10:32

Under-13 boys: 1 Alexander Thompson 10:13; 2 Joseph Currie 10:19; 3 Ethan McGlen 10:19

Under-13 girls: 1 Anna Hedley 10:47; 2 Amy Harland 10:54; 3 Holly Weedall 11:06

Under-11 boys: 1 Alex Poulston 6:51; 2 Oliver Patton 7:00; 3 Dexta Thompson 7:03

Under-11 girls: 1 Harriet Bain 7:20; 2 Sophie Bohannon 7:25; 3 Freya Murdoch 7:26

» See the December 1 edition of AW magazine for full reports, pictures and results