England team announced for Lotto Cross Cup

England Athletics is pleased to announce the 16 athletes who will represent England at the Lotto Cross Cup in Diest, Belgium, on Sunday 12 February.

The Lotto Cross Cup in Diest is an annual cross country running competition that takes place in Diest in the Belgian province of Flemish Brabant. It historically attracts a few top athletes from Europe and Africa.

Typically held in January or February, the Cross Cup competition was created as a men's only event in 1941 and in its first decade a number of Belgian champions competed, including Gaston Reiff and Marcel Vandewattyne. It became increasingly international in nature and the 1950s saw Olympic medallists top the podium, such as Derek Ibbotson, Gordon Pirie and Franjo Mihalić.

Despite the growth of foreign competition, Gaston Roelants (the 1964 Olympic steeplechase champion) was dominant at the competition in the 1960s and two more Belgian Olympians, Emiel Puttemans and Vincent Rousseau, extended the national-level success from the mid-1970s through to the 1990s. A women's race was introduced in 1977 and attracted high level foreign competition from 1990 onwards.

Team manager Eamonn Martin said:

"England frequent Belgium most seasons to compete in various venues whichever fits the England Cross Country schedule for that season. This season we visit Diest for the Cross Cup event in February having visited Hannut also on 22nd January. With a range of successes over many seasons, including victories in all ages at the various Cross Cup venues, we will once again travel to Belgium with expectation of success. More importantly enabling all the athletes to gain experience and confidence in an event such as the ‘Cross Cup’ which has been held since the 1940’s.

"Diest is a twisting winding multi-lap typical Belgian course and will test our athletes once again."

England team

Senior Men

Ned Potter (Sonia McGeorge, Newham & Essex Beagles/Loughborough)

Ned was 9th in the Junior Mens National Cross Country in February 22 and has showed good form as he has stepped up to the Senior Ranks. 16th place in the European Trial at Liverpool in November (8th U23) meant he missed out on selection for the U23 European Team despite having beaten athletes two weeks before the trial who made the team when he won the Birmingham League. Three weeks ago on his England senior debut he ran a great race for 5th in the Belgium Cross Cup in Hannut. Last week at the BUCS (British Universities Championships) he was 4th, three seconds ahead of Tomer Tarragano who is also competing. Can he hold off Tomer again in Diest?

Jack Gray (Mark Vile, Cambridge & Coleridge)

Jack was 21st at the Liverpool European Cross trial in November having finished 11th in the Cardiff Cross Challenge (October) and 10th in the home countries international in Milton Keynes on November. He ran the Valencia 10k on the 15th of January and then ran Hannut, Belgium cross country a week later where he finished 17th. He followed this a week later by winning the Midland area cross country.

He is definitely well raced this winter.

Tomer Tarragano (Dean Miller, Brighton & Hove)

Tomer made the GB U23 European Team for Turin, finishing 11th in the trial but 4th U23 to take his place in the GB team of six. Tomer finished 37th in Turin in the European U23 championship. He followed this on his England senior debut with 15th in Elgoibar, one of the toughest races in Europe. He has previously ran well as a junior competing for England in Rotselaar, Belgium in 2020 where he was 3rd. He now appears to be adapting to the tougher rigors of senior cross country running and comes into this fresh from his run in the BUCS (British Universities Championships) last week where he was 5th, three seconds behind team mate Ned Potter. Can he get the better of Ned in Belgium?

Senior Women

Sarah Astin (Geoff Watkin, Belgrave)

Sarah finished 10th (7th Senior) in the European Trial at Liverpool and just missed out being part of the GB team in Turin. This was an impressive performance off the back of PB’s this summer in 1500 and 3000 on the track. Sarah’s cross country season started at the prestigious Atapeurca XC, Spain in November and along with last year’s 4th in the Southern and 13th National Cross Country sees a good season ahead. Sarah runs for England in Hannut on 22 January so will have experience running on a Belgium course.

Niamh Bridson-Hubbard (Phil O’Dell, Blackheath & Bromley)

After finishing 16th in last seasons’ National XC and a great track season, gaining PB’s in 800/1500/mile and 3000m, Niamh started her cross country season with an 8th place finish at the British Cross Challenge in Cardiff. This was followed up with 8th place in Milton Keynes running for the South Team in the Home Countries and 18th in the European Trial. Niamh recently competed for England in Elgoibar where she finished 13th in a high class field.

Rebecca Murray (Craig Winrow, Bedford & County)

Rebecca has previously been part of the England teams and gained selection with her 12th place in Milton Keynes at the Cross Challenge and 12th place in the European Trial in Liverpool (8th Senior Lady). Rebecca was also part of the England Team competing in Elgoibar and finished in 18th.

Phillipa Stone (Martin Peevor, Middlesborough (Mandale)/Durham Uni)

Phillipa has been selected from her impressive 2nd place finish in the Northern Cross Country Championships on the tough Blackburn course. Phillipa finished 10th in last seasons English Cross Country Championships. She then went on to gain PB's in 800/1500/3000 on the track this summer and 5k on the road. Phillipa competed for England in cross country as a Junior and now sees her debut for cross country as a senior for England.

U20 Men

Joe Ponter (Dave Lee, Taunton AC)

Joe finished 11th in last year’s National just one second behind Inter-Counties bronze medallist Louis Small. Living so far south brings its problems when competition is concerned but Joe has not let this put him off. The highlight of the season so far is 3rd place in Perth behind Elgoibar runner up and Australia bound Ed Bird. Definitely moving in the right direction.

Samuel Hodgson (Shireen Higgins, Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow)

Sam showed his track potential in July last year when he took the English schools 3000m silver medal. Sam’s form took a nose dive in the early winter months which turned out to be due to very low vitamin D count. Despite this Sam finished a creditable, although for him a disappointing, 10th place in the European Cross Country trials in Liverpool. Sam now seems to have overcome the vitamin D issue as he comfortably won the Berkshire County Championships in December. Sam’s good form has continued into 2023 with an excellent 2nd place in the Cross Challenge in Perth.

Recently he won the Southern Cross Country Championships and would like to continue that form in Belgium.

Rowan Miell-Ingram (Wendy Miell-Ingram, Radley AC)

Rowan won the ESSA English Schools 1500m Championships in July. This was achieved on the back of a cross country season that saw him represent England in Diest, Belgium in February where he finished 4th. Rowan also secured 4th place in the ESSA English Schools Cross Country Championships in March. A 2nd place in the UK Cross Challenge in Milton Keynes and an 8th place in the UK European Cross Country Trial in Liverpool followed. 2023 has started well for Rowan with a 6th place finish in Elgoibar.

Ben Brown (Peter Haynes, Southampton AC)

Ben is making it a habit to finish 2nd as he added his runner up spot in Cardiff to the 2nd place (first Englishman) he secured earlier this year in CAU Inter County Championships (including British Athletics Cross Challenge). Ben contracted Covid in early November which had a major impact on the rest of the year. Ben finished 6th in the Home Countries International and a disappointing 21st in UK European Cross Country Trial in Liverpool. Ben’s form has now picked up again with him running a 10km PB on the road, breaking 30 minutes in the process in December.

James Knockton (Richard Goddard, Trafford AC)

James represented GB in the European Athletics U18 Championships in Jerusalem over 3000m in July 2022. James finished 8th in the Home Countries International. James is rounding into good shape with him running a 10km PB on the road, breaking 30 minutes in the process in December.

U20 women

Hattie Reynolds (Tim Ash, City of Norwich)

Hattie won the South of England Championships in the under 17 age group. This form carried on as she finished second in the National under 17 Championships also. This Cross Country season she has picked up where she left off last season, finishing 7th at the recent Cross Country Challenge at Milton Keynes. At the European Cross Country Trials she finished 13th. With these good results Hattie finished second in the South of England Inter-County Championships Under 20 in December. She recently competed at Hannut Cross Country and finished a creditable 4th. She took that form and finished second at the South of England Championships, finishing a close fought second.

Olivia Martin (Bernard Wilkins, Abingdon)

Olivia completed in the English Schools Track Championships and finished 3rd in the 3000m. By the end of the 2022 track season she was ranked in the top 10 for the 3000m and 11th in the 1500m. She had a low key start to the 2022/23 cross country season but in December she finished 4th in the South of England Inter Counties Championship. In her last race she finished 3rd in the South of England Cross Country Championships.

Innes Fitzgerald (Gavin Pavey, Exeter Harriers)

Innes won all schools races in 2022 including Schools International Athletic Board Track Championships 3000m and Cross Country Championships. This cross country season she won the Cardiff Cross Challenge event in October. She completed and won the European Cross Trials at Liverpool, gaining selection for the European Cross Country Championships in Turin where she finished 4th. She recently competed at Hannut Cross Country and won convincingly.

Sophie Nicholls (Simon Prior, Wells City Harriers)

Sophie was 3rd at the English Schools and placed 7th in the Inter Counties. She has started this season well finishing 4th Under 17 at Cardiff Cross Country. At the European Cross Country Trial in Liverpool she finish 20th U20/U17. In her last race she was 11th at the Perth Cross Country Challenge race. She also completed at Hannut and finished 3rd.