Harriet Knowles-Jones was Britain's sole individual champion as the GB&NI team topped the medal table in the 24th SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Samorin on Sunday (10 December). Knowles-Jones swept the opposition aside in her final year as an under-20 junior after securing silver in 2015 and bronze last year.
Britain had a few hurdles to overcome in Slovakia, not just the man made obstacles that often litter otherwise uninspiring continental courses. Swansea's Dewi Griffiths was leading the senior men's race when he was forced to withdraw with painful hamstring cramp, possibly due to the extremely cold weather.
With a Griffiths-sized hole in the team, GB did well to hang on to third place to match the bronze won by Andy Butchart (Central) in another brave battle with the best in Europe. At three-to-score, Britain's defending champions led the teams until Griffith's misfortune. Ben Connor (Derby, 6th) and Tom Lancashire (Bolton, 26th) completed the scorers.
The British senior women made no mistake in improving from silver last year to gold this time. Charlotte Taylor (Nene Valley Harriers, 6th) ran a brilliant race to lead the team with Emelia Gorecka (Aldershot, 8th) and former European champion Gemma Steel (Charnwood, 9th) securing gold.
The newly introduced Senior Mixed Relay was another GB gold medal highlight as Melissa Courtney (Shaftesbury), Cameron Boyek (Shildon), Sarah McDonald (Birchfield) and Tom Marshall (Cardiff) had too much gas in the tank for the Czech Republic and Spain. Three seconds covered the medal winners in the closest race of the day.
Both Britain's junior women teams struck gold as Harriet Knowles-Jones (Warrington) celebrated twice on the top step of the podium at under-20 and Jess Judd (Chelmsford) led the under-23 team to gold with an individual bronze. Every women's team member took home a golden memento in the most remarkable statistic of the day.
Meanwhile, bronze was considered mission accomplished for the under-20 men, headed by Mahamed Mahamed (Southampton, 12th). The under-20 juniors were sixth, with Matt Willis (Wrexham, 14th) the leading finisher.