Megan Keith Euro Cross U23 Champion 2023

Thumbs Up For Megan!

GB dominates the medal table at Euro Cross with three champions...

British athletes won a record seven golds as they topped the table with 11 medals from seven races at the 29th SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Laeken Park, Brussels on Sunday 10 December 2023.

Individual titles were won by Scotland's under-23 European champion Megan Keith (Inverness); men's under-23 winner Will Barnicoat (Aldershot) and under-20 junior women's gold medallist Innes Fitzgerald (Exeter). All three led their teams to glory and the final team gold came in the senior women's race.

The course in the Belgian capital was covered in mud – shin-deep in places – and the many twists and turns combined with climbs and descents to provide a stern test of cross-country running skills and an active black market in 15mm replacement spikes!

The first two races were the under-20 events over 5,000m. The women went first and Innes Fitzgerald lost no time in taking the lead and claiming her first European title. Jess Bailey (Leven Valley) in eighth and Lizzie Wellsted (Colchester, 13th)  secured team gold for GB.

With the tone set by the women, the under-20 men battled hard but had to settle for team silver – two points behind champions Ireland – through the combined efforts of Sam Mills (Exeter, 5th), Henry Dover (Shaftesbury Barnet, 6th) and Rowan Meill-Ingram (Radley, 13th).

Next up was the mixed 4x1500m relay where GB gambled on a different running order to most of their rivals but ended up narrowly losing a sprint finish to France and Netherlands. The bronze medals were won by Joshua Lay (Rugby & Northampton), Bethan Morley (Leeds City), Adam Fogg (Coventry) and Khasisa Mhlanga (Herts Phoenix) – just four seconds behind gold.

The two under-23 races were next to run as the course surface steadily deteriorated. Megan Keith took the lead from the start and with her powerful stride and distinctive 'thumbs-up' arm action was never headed. Keith won by the astonishing margin of 83 seconds in a dominant display. Team gold was assured by Alex Millard (Invicta East Kent, 11th) and Eloise Walker (Edinburgh, 15th).

The under-23 men ran the same 7,000m course and there was another GB individual gold for Will Barnicoat in totally contrasting style. He just edged Valentin Bresc (France) in a thrilling sprint finish as both shared the same time. Matt Stonier (Invicta East Kent) took an individual bronze and together with James Kingston (Tonbridge, 21st) added another team gold medal. 

Both senior races were held over identical 9,000m courses as equality of distance was respected. Abbie Donnelly (Lincoln Wellington) made a bold bid for victory but ultimately had to settle for bronze. With Jess Warner-Judd (Blackburn) fifth and Izzy Fry (Newbury) tenth the GB women claimed the team title.

The final senior men's race was a rare medal desert for GB as Hugo Milner (Derby, 4th) was just pipped for a podium spot after making all of the early running. The GB team finished fifth with Calum Johnson (Gateshead, 23rd) and Zak Mahamed (Southampton, 27th) completing the scoring.                            

Full results are available at European Athletics here

Photo of Megan Keith courtesy of European Athletics via Getty Image

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