Impressive Hawkins claims second on home soil
Callum Hawkins (handicap -6.9) showed exactly why he is regarded as one of the leading names for the future of British distance running after producing a fine display at yesterday’s Great Edinburgh International XCountry, finishing a close second to Leonard Kiror of the USA following a gripping finale to the senior men’s race.
Hawkins led from the gun, pushing out from the pack in what is soon to be regarded as typical fashion. Last year’s winner, Garrett Heath of the USA, was on the shoulder of British Olympian for much of the race before fading, with Heath’s compatriot Leonard Kiror then taking on the challenge of breaking Hawkins as lead.
After navigating some of the tricky and tight bends the course offered on the final long lap, Hawkins looked to have broken clear of Kiror in front of a deafening home-crowd for the Scot, only for the American to step past him with just yards left to the tape.
Reflecting on stages of the race afterwards, Hawkins said: “I thought I had it – I couldn’t hear because of the crowd! I’m pleased with the way I ran, but obviously a bit disappointed to get beat, but I gave it my all. I noticed there was a bit of a gap, but I slipped a bit on one of the last bends, I don’t know if that would have made a difference though, he’s [Kiror] a quality athlete.”
When asked about his decision to take the race on, he added: “Over the last year or so I’ve just developed the thought of ‘just go out, if I die, I die, but just go for the win’; if it works then great things can happen, but if I fall short then I’m still way up there.”
Behind Hawkins came Sir Mo Farah (handicap -7.5) in seventh place after he gradually built into the race after moving through from 16th on lap two, with European Cross team gold medallist Andy Vernon (handicap -6.5) starting the year strongly with a solid 12th place finish.
Speaking to the BBC afterwards, Farah said: “It was a hard day at the office. You’ve got to be honest with yourself – it wasn’t what I wanted but it is where I am. The last bit of training hasn’t gone as well as I would have wanted. But this is a team event and I wanted to come out here and represent my country and help the guys. I will go back and continue to work hard in training.”
“Cross country is where I started as a kid and it is always fun. It is good for the youngsters (on the team) competing today and getting the support of these crowds.”
Fine displays from Charlotte Arter (handicap -0.8) and Pippa Woolven (handicap -1.0) saw them finish in the top ten of the senior women’s race. After both making British debuts in Chia last month, the pair paced their races to perfection to claim seventh and eighth place respectively. Steph Twell (handicap -1.9) was initially leading the British charge over the first couple of laps but eventually finish in 12th, with Claire Duck (handicap -0.8) moving through the field well to claim 10th.
A delighted Arter spoke afterwards: “I absolutely love this course; it suits me down to the ground with the conditions and the terrain. I took it off easy in the first couple of laps, and I knew that if I moved through then I could hopefully come through well in the latter stages. I feel like I got my race tactics spot on and I’m absolutely delighted to be the first British athlete over the line.”
In the mixed 4x1km relay, anchor leg Laura Muir (handicap -2.5) brought the British team home superbly to win the Stewart Cup for the first time since its introduction in 2015. After taking the baton in second place just behind Scotland’s A team, the British Athletics team captain opened up a sizeable gap on the back of terrific work by James Bowness (handicap -4.5), Charlene Thomas (handicap -0.9) and James West (handicap -4.7) on legs one to three respectively.
Speaking afterwards, the 23-year-old said: “As the captain, I wanted to put in a great performance for the team. When I saw the other guys and girls placing well, I knew I had to deliver as well – luckily the legs were feeling ok.”
On her recent good form and the attention it has brought, Muir added: “I wasn’t used to been the one to watch before but it’s great that people are recognising that I’m running fast and I just want to try and keep that up.”
Harriet Knowles-Jones (handicap -0.1) sealed a marvellous victory in the junior women’s race to continue her excellent run of form which saw her win bronze at the European Cross Country Championships last month. She made her move on the penultimate lap of the race, opening up a 20m gap as they came around Haggis Knowe, and that lead kept opening up over the last long lap to seal victory and go one better than her second place finish in Holyrood in 2016.
Knowles-Jones said afterwards: “I had a race plan, and I like it when a race plan comes off. The first lap was very calm, the second was a bit faster, but when we got to the hills I felt like the Americans dropped off us a tiny bit, and I just took that and went with it.”
There was an impressive fourth place for 17-year-old Amelia Quirk (handicap 1.2) who worked hard on the final lap to stick with the chasing pack. Up in second at one point, she finally finished in fourth to help the junior women’s team to the victory over Europe and USA.
In the first day of the race involving members British Athletics team, the men’s junior 6km, on his GB debut, Scott Beattie (handicap -3.8) finished 8th to lead the British charge. Despite taking a fall in the second half of the race which left him mud strewn, he built back momentum to move up the placing superbly over the final lap.
Reflecting on the race afterwards, as well as the experience of representing Great Britain, the Morpeth Harrier said: “It was my first race for GB so I have been a bit nervous in the week building up to it. But when I got the start line, I was more excited than anything. I felt really relaxed once we got going. I was going really well but I hit something, I think it was a rock and it left me about 100m back. I tried to go steady so it didn’t take much out of us but by the last kilometre, I didn’t have much left.”
The British team finished third overall on 208 points in the team competition won by Team USA.