13 Jan

Steel Leads Charge In Holyrood

Gemma Steel

The Great Britain and Northern Ireland team finished ahead of Europe and USA to land top spot in the International Challenge at the Bupa Great Edinburgh XCountry. The event, which took place in muddy conditions in Holyrood Park, saw Gemma Steel and Andy Vernon securing first and second positions in their respective distances.

Sitting in third position behind Europe and USA before the final race of the day, GB moved into first place after a series of impressive performances. GB finished the day on 159 points, with Europe second (172) and USA in third position (203).

With the standings finely balanced, the senior women's team tipped the initiative to GB & NI as captain Gemma Steel took victory over the 6k distance in 20:35, denying second placed Fionnuala Britton (20:44) a third successive victory at the event. Emelia Gorecka capped off a fine international debut by taking third place in a time of 20:51, with Charlotte Purdue fifth (20:59) and Lily Partridge (seventh), Steph Twell (ninth) and Chloe Richardson (tenth) all securing top positions.

Steel was delighted to have improved on her sixth place finish in Antrim last weekend, commenting: I felt comfortable and in control and it was a good way to do it. Nobody wanted to take the race on because it was really blustery. I'm pleased Emelia stayed with me, even on her senior debut, and we helped each other out and worked together. It was great that the senior women could take care of business at the end and get the overall team victory."

In the senior men's event (8km), the USA's Chris Derrick secured top billing with a time of 24:11; 10 seconds ahead of GB men's captain Andy Vernon who took second place. The next British athlete over the line was Kilbarchan's Callum Hawkins in 6th, while Jonny Hay also secured a top 10 spot.

In the earlier race, Kenenisa Bekele was unable to follow up victory at last year's Great North Run as the USA's Garrett Heath won the 4k competition in a time of 11:51. The American, winner of last September's Great North Mile, outsprinted Ethopia's Meresa Kahsay (11:52) at the finish line, with Bekele taking 5th (12:02). Chris Thompson was the top placed British runner over 4k in 6th place.