England shine at Lotto Cross Cup in Belgium 

The final round of the EnergyVision CrossCup in Diest provided the perfect conclusion to the series of European cross country events. On an unseasonably mild day in Belgium, fifteen athletes across both the junior and senior aged groups toed the line flying the flag for England. 

Senior Men 

An official distance of 9,070m awaited the men and a tight start ensured the usual mad dash for the front places before the course narrowed and the pack settled down. When it did Jack Millar (Bristol & West/Thames Hare and Hounds, David Bedwell) was already in 4th place with Jack Gray (Cambridge & Coleridge, Mark Vile) and Sam Mills (Exeter) just a short distance back in a busy pack. Unfortunately, Alfie Manthorpe (Sheffield & Dearne, John Wood) was unable to race after being stuck in Northern Ireland following cancelled flights after the Armagh 5k.  

As the race unfolded it was clear that Jack Millar was performing well as he did in the London Cross Challenge, slowly pulling away from 5th position to consolidate 4th but never feeling he was out of the race for 3rd. Gray and Mills were battling together in around 7th and 8th place with Mills heading Gray early on for laps 1 & 2 but by the start of lap 3, Millar had a significant gap on them. Sake and Vanderpoorten of Belgium looked to be too far ahead of Millar but 3rd placed Grimard did not. As they entered the final lap Millar had around 30 seconds lead on Gray who had a further 15 seconds on Mills. Gray had pulled away from Mills who had to really dig deep against the stronger and older athletes around him but did so with the quality and courage we have come to expect from him. 

  • 4th Jack Millar - 29:52 
  • 8th Jack Gray - 30:22 
  • 12th Sam Mills - 30:41 

Senior Women 

It was five laps and almost 10k for the senior women. The race started at a fast pace with Jess Gibbon (Reading AC) sitting just behind the lead group and the rest of the team siting in the next group of athletes. After the first lap Jasmijn Lau and Jan Van Lent broke away and Jess was just sitting behind there was then a sizeable gap to the rest of the field which broke off into smaller groups. The positioning didn’t change until the last lap where Jess went into the lead and gained a winning gap in the second half and held it until the finishing line with Lau second 8 seconds behind and Van Len finishing third. Sophie Tarver (Wirral, Bill Foster) ran a well paced race and came through the field to finish an impressive 7th place.  Philippa Stone (Middlesbrough/Durham University, Martin Peevor) maintained her position finishing strong in 10th as did Megan Gadsby (City of Norwich/St Mary’s University, Mick Woods) finishing in a credible 13th on her debut running for England.

All the team enjoyed the race and atmosphere but said it was a tough course.

  • 1st Jess Gibbon - 33:23
  • 7th Sophie Tarver - 35:10
  • 10th Philippa Stone - 35:40
  • 13th Megan Gadsby - 36:08

Junior Men 

The junior men’s race started with normal frantic charge with the lead runners determined to secure a clear view of the hairpin bend at the top of the starting straight. First to show was the long striding Belgium, Simon Jeukenne. Paying close attention was the fast-improving Quinn Miell-Ingram (Radley, Wendy Miell-Ingram) and England debutant, Mark Ruby (Poole AC, Mark Pauley). Fellow Englishman Jake Stevens (Invicta East Kent, Donald Carter) and birthday boy William Rabjohns (Poole AC, Mark Pauley) had chosen to make a more conservative start and were a little way back in the pack. 

By the end of the first lap Juekenne had established an early lead over the chasing Ruby. There were significant changes on lap two, Juekeene had increased his lead over 2nd place Quinn Miell-Ingram to over 30m, Ruby had started to tire and had been caught and passed by Miell-Ingram. The twisty nature of the course and the mixture of sand and thick mud made the going very hard and by lap three any over enthusiasm at the start was now coming back to bite. Coming into the closing stages, the athletes were well spread out with the main places looking nailed on. Juekenne made light work of the final hurdles and ran on comfortably to secure the win. A great improvement on his 5th place from last year. Miell-Ingram maintained his strong running to claim an excellent and clear 2nd place. The third podium place was taken by the strong finishing Rabjohns on his 18th birthday. 

  • 2nd - Quinn Miell-Ingram – 16:30 
  • 3rd - William Rabjohns – 16:45 
  • 5th – Jake Stevens – 16:54 
  • 8th – Mark Ruby – 17:03 

Junior Women 

Four England cross country debutants made up the junior women’s team with India Barwell (Lincoln Wellington, Rob Lewis), Amelie Lane (Wharfedale, Sally Malir), Beth Rogers (Ilkley, Sally Malir) and Jenny Leggate (Cambridge & Coleridge, Richard Park) taking on the three-lap course. 

The four women all started positively and on the first lap India, Beth and Amelie were in the leading group with three Belgian athletes. Jenny was about 5 metres behind but ahead of the second pack.  Towards the end of the first lap the pack began to break up and India took the lead with Amelie a few metres behind in 3rd, followed by Jenny and Beth who were in the top ten.    

As the race entered the 3rd and final lap, India had company from SEAA representative Lauren Russell who had worked her way through the field and a battle between the two athletes began to unfold. Lauren briefly took the lead but with around 800m remaining India showed her strength to close the gap, sweeping past Lauren to retain back her lead and go on to cross the line in first place. Behind India, Amelie continued to run strongly to end up finishing a credible 4th pace.  Not far behind Jenny was also finishing strongly and showed great form to finish 6th.  Following a fast start Beth rallied well to finish 12th. 

  •  1st - India Barwell – 19:20 
  • 4th - Amelie Lane – 19:49 
  • 6th - Jenny Leggate – 19:55 
  • 12th - Beth Rogers – 20:25