Productive meeting in Slovenia sees variety of medals secured

Leeds City middle-distance runners James Wilkinson and James Walsh were among the medals at yesterday’s European Cross Country Championships at Velenje, Slovenia.

Wilkinson put a disappointing trial behind him when he ran a superb race to finish second in the Under-23 group. The winner was favourite Florian Carvalho who always looked to have the race under control and went clear an an uphill section on the last lap. But Wilkinson was always prominent and finished full of running at the end of the twisting but mainly flat course. His silver medal gave the British runners a great start in the team contest and Wilkinson picked up a second silver when they finished runners-up to winners Norway.

Walsh, too, took home a silver team medal in the senior race won by France. The comfortable winner was Ethiopian Atelaw Bekela running in the colours of his adopted country Belgium.

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British trial winner Andy Vernon (Aldershot) was disappointed with ninth place but he was still top Briton, followed closely by Ryan McLeod, 13th, and Walsh 15th, both playing crucial roles in the British success, leaving Mark Draper, 22nd, to complete the count. It was a fine run by Walsh who had finished fifth in the trial race two weeks ago.

In the women’s race, won impressively by Ireland’s Fionnuala Britton, the British team won a close team race from defending champions Portugal.

Gemma Steel was first British runner home with a splendid bronze medal with Freya Murray, 12th, Julia Bleasdale 13th and Ella Baker 14th but Hallamshire’s Hatti Dean will have been disappointed with 18th.

Rob Little (Hallamshire) won the fourth and final South Yorkshire Cross Country League race at the Northern Racing College, Doncaster, yesterday and took the South Yorkshire Championship.

The women’s race was dominated by Rotherham who had the first three, Jade Allen winning from Steph Burns and Samantha Johnson.

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