Great Cross Country event to extend its run in Capital

TWELL DONE: Scottish Commonwealth runner Steph Twell finished ninth in the 6k. Pic: Toby Wiliams
TWELL DONE: Scottish Commonwealth runner Steph Twell finished ninth in the 6k. Pic: Toby Wiliams
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The Great Edinburgh Cross Country has been guaranteed another four years in the Capital after Saturday’s successful tenth anniversary hosting of the event in Holyrood Park.

A new agreement between the city, organisers Nova International and Event Scotland means the televised meeting will continue north of the Border until 2018.

“Our aim for this event has always been to create a world-class festival of cross country running from the early days in the North East of England (where the race was first held 25 years ago) and now in our new home of Edinburgh where we’ve strived to create an exciting atmosphere for athletes and spectators and have had the pleasure of hosting some of the world’s best,” said Nova International chairman and BBC commentator Brendan Foster.

Paul Bush OBE, Chief Operating Officer for EventScotland said: “Scotland is the perfect stage for events and the Great Run International Cross Country is an annual highlight on our sporting calendar. Attracting some of the biggest names in athletics, we are proud to host this world-class meet in Edinburgh.

“Taking place in Holyrood Park, in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat, the meet is a wonderful advert for our capital city, and it is credit to our credentials as a major event destination that we have secured a new deal for the Cross Country through to 2018.”

But the organisers must be a little alarmed at the sparse attendance on Saturday compared to some previous years.

Perhaps it was the absence of a big British name such as Mo Farah, though in international terms they hardly come bigger than 11-times World champion Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele.

Steph Twell was the only member of Scotland’s already chosen Glasgow 2014 athletes to take part and she finished ninth in the women’s 6k race won by her Great Britain teammate Gemma Steel.

“I’m delighted with that – I really got stuck in,” said the 2010 Delhi Games 1500 metres bronze medallist.

A women’s Elite 4k race similar to the men’s and featuring the likes of two more Games team picks Eilish McColgan and Laura Muir might have been an attraction but presumably they had other commitments or training preferences.

Apart from Twell, the Scot who impressed the most was Kilbarchan’s Callum Hawkins, who was sixth in the men’s 8k race, only 22 seconds down on winner Chris Derrick (USA).

“I don’t usually run well at Holyrood,” said Hawkins. “I started conservatively as they were pushing on but I felt comfortable so when it settled down I managed to push through a bit. That’s Liverpool (British trials), Euro Cross and here and it’s gone pretty well – I think the Games 10,000 metres qualifying time of 29 minutes is achievable.”

Hawkins, the second Briton behind runner-up Andy Vernon, the European bronze medallist, collected some useful scalps including GB teammates Johnny Hay and Steve Vernon, and was only five seconds down on last year’s winner Bobby Mack (USA).

The other Scot in the men’s team, Central’s Andrew Butchart, was 24th on his GB debut in 25:49, exactly a minute down on Hay.

GB won the overall team contest for the two senior races and two junior events with 159 points to Team Europe’s 172 and USA’s 203 thanks to an impressive showing by the women, who not only took the first three places in the junior 4k race, through the Kent sisters Bobby and Alex Clay and Lydia Turner, but then dominated the senior women’s 6k.

After a superb effort by European junior champion Emelia Gorecka, who eventually finished third in her first senior race, Charnwood’s Gemma Steel took the individual honours in 20:35, nine seconds clear of the former European champion Fionnuala Britton (Ireland), with Gorecka timed at 20:51 and Charlotte Purdue (five), Lily Partridge (seven), Twell (nine) and Chloe Richardson (ten) completing the low total of 35 points.

The Elite Men’s 4k race, which did not count in the team contest, saw neither Bekele nor Able Kiprop, Kenya’s former Olympic 1500m champion, on top form.

The race was won by American Garrett Heath in 11:51, just ahead of Ethiopia’s World youth steeplechase champion Meresa Kahsay, with Kiprop third in 11:58 and Bekele fifth in 12:02.