Millard and Mahamed win at the Milton Keynes Cross Challenge

Alex Millard XC win

Fast racing was the order of the day as athletes made the most of the hard ground at an unseasonably mild Teardrop Lakes for the second fixture of the series.

The events also incorporated a Home Countries International featuring teams from England, Wales, Northern Ireland, North, Midlands, South and East. Numbers were boosted too by the inclusion of the second leg of the Chiltern League.

Mahamed Mahamed (handicap -6.5) and Alex Millard (handicap -0.6) came away with the senior victories at the British Athletics Cross Challenge in Milton Keynes.

Throughout the last lap of three of the senior men’s 9.5km race, it was clear it was going to be a Mahamed win. The only question was: which one? Mahamed senior and brother Zakariya (handicap -5.6) were battling it out closely at the front after dropping last year’s winner, Hugo Milner (handicap -5.7).

In the end it was Mahamed who pulled away with around 2km to go and went on to cross the line six seconds clear in 27:49.

Alex George (handicap -5.8) was third in 28:16 to make it a 1-2-3 and an overall win for the England team in the match. Milner was fourth and Callum Elson (handicap -5.5) fifth.

Mahamed said afterwards: “I think there’s a pressure when your brother’s next to you and he wants to beat you but, at the same time, it’s good that we push each other. It was a good race and with these conditions it was nice.”

Like many athletes, he will now be focused on trying to make the GB team for the European Cross Country Championships at Liverpool in two weeks’ time.

Mahamed, who has been on five such teams in the past, said: “Hopefully I can make it into the team and go to the Euro Cross and have fun. I’ve got loads of experience and I’ve really enjoyed it over the years.”

Millard pulled away from a group of three at the end of the second lap to clock 24:11 for the 7.2km distance.

Her training partner, Grace Carson (handicap -0.7), was second in 24:18 followed by last year’s winner here and British Cross Challenge champion, Jess Gibbon (handicap -5.5), a further four seconds back. Cari Hughes (handicap 0.8) and Eloise Walker (handicap -1.7) were next across the line while England took the home countries win.

She said on finishing: “It was a really nice group the whole way, which was helpful, running together. I felt pretty chilled, I was just trying to relax because 7.2km is getting on the longer side. We were packing and then people gradually dropped off.

“I managed to find something else going through the woods at the end. I knew I had an all-right finish if I was feeling pretty chilled.”

Millard missed out by one place on making the under-23 team for the Euro Cross last year, particularly unfortunate as her birthday made her one day out from being an under-20.

The 7.2km under-20 race fell to Luke Birdseye (handicap -3.2), who pulled clear with 2km to go up a hill. He was five seconds in front of Rowan Miell-Ingram (handicap -4.1) with 22:08 as Matthew Ramsden (handicap -4.6) was third in 22:15.

Birdseye, who led the South to the home countries team honours, said: “I just tried to drive home to the finish, and I just managed to get a gap. I’m really happy with that. It went exactly as I planned, to be honest.

“I wasn’t sure how I was going to do today. I think, after last week (second on the first leg of the English Cross Country Relays), I had a lot of confidence and, coming into this week, I just felt good; I just went for it — I trusted myself and it paid off.

Alice Bates (handicap 1.2) pulled away in the last half-kilometre of the under-20 5km to win by three seconds. She clocked 17:29 as Beatrice Wood (handicap 3.6) followed and Megan Harris (handicap 2.2) was third in 17:34. In fifth overall, Sophie Nicholls (handicap 1.0) was top under-17 in 17:51.

Bates said afterwards: “The plan was to sit on the smaller lap, which I did quite comfortably, and then, with 1km or 2km to go, try and stretch the lead, which I did. I think it was the last 500m where I managed to stretch away. I’m definitely happy about it because I did not feel as good as I had hoped to. But I came away with the win so I can’t be disappointed.”

Bates, who was pleased with the dry course as she said she did not do much cross-country specific work, added she was feeling more hopeful of making the Euro Cross team this year. Talking of last year, she said: “I was caught up with other things. I was sort of distracted. I probably wasn’t in the best place mentally to be competing at a high level but this year it’s looking a lot better.”

UK runbritain rankings for endurance events and age groups 

Other results from the weekend are on the following links: 

Road/multi terrain