After securing a 1-2 at the recent Leeds Abbey Dash, Scots runners Callum Hawkins and Andrew Butchart once again led the field at the European Cross Country Trials at Sefton Park on Saturday. This time, however, it was Hawkins’ turn to triumph, with the Kilbarchan athlete narrowly ousting Butchart in a dramatic finish.
The pair were matched for the majority of the contest, with Hawkins snatching victory in a time of 29:26. On the reversal of fortunes, Hawkins commented: “I didn’t have a great race in Leeds a couple of weeks ago but I’m really happy that I returned and changed the score this time around.”
“I was thinking he’s tiring (Andrew Butchart) so I’ll get him on the corner and maybe get in his head a little bit and it seemed to work. I’m really pleased, that’s been my focus since the Commonwealth Games and hopefully I can sneak a medal in Bulgaria. I’ve got the engine to do it.”
In the women’s field, Gemma Steel justified her status as pre-race favourite to secure a comfortable victory. The Charnwood athlete finished in 26:58, 11 seconds ahead of second-placed Emelia Gorecka (27:09), with Rhona Auckland in third (27:12).
Steel commented post-race: “It’s a happy hunting ground for me over the last few years and it’s great to get a win here. I was a bit rusty after not racing for a month so I just wanted to try and get through it. There were a few of us taking turns at the front and I was trying not to get too carried away. I was listening to the breathing round me and I was thinking, ‘I’ve hardly started running yet’, so I put the hammer down and got away from them.
Looking ahead to the race in two weeks, Steel laid out her aspirations: “I’m definitely going for gold in Bulgaria this year. I have (European Cross) silver and bronze so it would be nice to get the gold. It has always been a dream of mine to stand on the top of that podium.”