SIMPLYHEALTH GREAT STIRLING XCOUNTRY
A look forward to the big Great Britain vs Europe vs United States clash this weekend
FROM one picturesque and historic Scottish venue to another. Having been based in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park since 2005, this Great XCountry international meeting moves to a new home in Stirling this year.
Rather than the shadow of Arthur’s Seat, athletes from across Great Britain, Europe and America will instead battle it out in the well-established team competition with the beautiful Stirling Castle as their backdrop.
The events which will take place in the grounds of the
King’s Park golf course should make for excellent viewing and the usual template will be followed, with Scottish InterDistrict races kicking off the day’s proceedings before the international action gets under way. The main difference is that the only junior race on the elite programme this time is the under-20 contest which has been included in the mixed relay event, where the teams compete for the Stewart Trophy as well as points.
Laura Muir is accustomed to victory when it comes to this event and the headline act will once again anchor the Great British relay line-up. She is joined by Alex Bell, Phil Sesemann and Jamie Williamson – three members of the relay side which narrowly came fourth at last month’s European Cross Country Championships.
They will be up against a European side containing three of the Spain team which took gold in Tilburg, as well as USA’s young line-up and a Scotland quartet which features Mhairi Hendry, Steph Pennycook, Adam Craig and Michael Ferguson.
European junior women’s team gold medallist Grace Brock will team up with Charlotte Alexander and European junior men’s team silver medallists
Matt Willis and Jack Meijer in the under-20 British side.
“I really love the event and we’ve won it every year so, no pressure!” says Muir of her relay task. “It’s going to be tough but I love racing on home soil. I
loved Holyrood but it’s exciting for everybody to have a new course. Everybody’s going to be in the same boat and it will be fun to run a different event.”
In the senior men’s race, America’s Leonard Korir will be looking to keep up his winning habit following his consecutive Holyrood victories of 2017 and last year. The 2016 winner Garrett Heath, a two-time short course winner in Edinburgh, returns too.
For Britain, European cross team silver medallists Charlie Hulson, Kristian Jones, Ross Millington and Marc Scott feature, as does under-23 team silver medallist Patrick Dever, racing in a senior British vest for the first time. The vastly experienced Andy Vernon will be looking to race well following a season blighted by injury.
Team Europe topped the overall standings last year and they field a strong line-up again which includes Belgium’s Isaac Kimeli and Aras Kaya of Turkey, senior silver and bronze medallists in Tilburg respectively, as well as Spaniard Adel Mechaal.
In the women’s race, Britain’s European cross team silver medallists all feature. Kate Avery was a winner at Holyrood Park three years ago while Charlotte Arter underlined her fine form by running the fastest ever parkrun by a female last weekend.
Emily Hosker Thornhill, Verity Ockenden, Jess Piasecki and Pippa Woolven complete a formidable line-up.
The upcoming IAAF World Cross Country Championships add another sizeable element to this season and Anna Emilie Møller is eyeing success on home soil in Aarhus later this year. The British-based Dane, individual European under-23 champion, leads a European team also featuring Germany’s Anna Gehring – the athlete she pipped to the title in Holland.
Anne-Marie Blaney, runner-up at the recent American club cross country championships, will be at the forefront of the USA team.
The Simplyhealth Great Stirling XCountry is free to spectators and will also be shown live on BBC1 from 13:15-15:15
Winning feeling: Laura Muir knows what it takes to anchor the relay side to victory
Success: Anna Emilie Møller
Kate Avery: 2016 winner