Jess Judd and Jack Rowe impress at Euro Cross Country Trials
Automatic places in the British team for Dublin are decided on an action-packed day in Sefton Park
Jess Judd and Jack Rowe won their respective senior races as the pair secured their spots in the British cross country team at next month’s European Cross Country Championships.
Two years ago Judd won the senior race in Liverpool and repeated the feat on Saturday (Nov 27), clocking 26:29 on the firm Sefton Park turf – much different to the boggy terrain that Judd navigated in 2019.
The 26-year-old Blackburn Harrier has had a spectacular 2021 and has already set personal bests in the 3000m, 10,000m and 10km on the road. She also represented Great Britain at the Tokyo Olympics and finished 13th in her 5000m heat and 17th in the 10,000m final.
On a weekend that saw Britain battered by Storm Arwen, the strong winds died down a little during the races in Sefton Park and Judd timed her race to perfection and moved away from Jenny Nesbitt, Abbie Donnelly, Amelia Quirk, Jess Gibbon and Kate Avery with roughly a third of the race to go. It was no surprise to see her win by 17 seconds.
The two-time European junior team cross country champion told AW: “I’m really happy and I tried to make it honest in the last lap and I probably went a bit early and I thought I should just go for it. As it went on I was more and more confident but the last stretch was really hard.”
Jess Judd on a dominant victory which secures her place on the British senior team at next month’s Euro Cross Champs 🎙 pic.twitter.com/QeMjwjqzSE
— AW (@AthleticsWeekly) November 27, 2021
On Dublin, she added: “I’m really excited and I just go into races without trying to put too much pressure on. If I can do as well as last time then great but I want the team to do really well and I feel like we’ve known each other for ages. Hopefully we can bring something back!”
Nesbitt finished second with 26:46 and Donnelly completed the podium with 26:51. Quirk was the quickest of the under-23s with 26:53.
In the senior men’s race, Jack Rowe continued his excellent form and beat two-time Olympian Andy Butchart by 11 seconds in a brilliant battle.
Rowe, who clocked 28:05 to win, has had a great 2021 which includes seven personal bests from 1500m up to the half-marathon and victory at Great South Run, while the 25-year-old Aldershot, Farnham & District athlete also matched Mo Farah on the UK all-time list at the English National Road Relays in Sutton Park earlier this winter.
A delighted Rowe, who will be one to watch in Dublin next month, told AW: “It was good, the course was firm and although there were a few parts which was cut up I really can’t complain. We went out quite conservative but when [Andy] Butchart came through at the end of the first lap the pace picked up.
“I just felt really confident and although I wasn’t going to go as early as I did I was feeling good and I could see that he [Butchart] was hurting.
“I was hearing all the previews and they’re bigging people up but I’m in some form and shape right now so I’m excited to go and race these people.”
Jamie Crowe finished third with 28:27 while Tom Mortimer was the best under-23 male athlete with 28:42.
Automatic athlete selection for next month’s championships in Dublin didn’t just take place for the seniors and under-23s as the under-20 athletes also had the opportunity to make the team.
Megan Keith dominated the women’s U17/U20 race and once she hit the front halfway through the race, the result looked inevitable. The 19-year-old Scot, who finished fourth in the 3000m at the European Under-20 Championships in June who was also nominated for AW British Female Junior Athlete of the Year, covered the 4.4km in 14:45.
“I’m really happy with that and excited to qualify for the team,” said the Inverness athlete. “The race today was so different to two years ago where there was so much mud and although there were crazy winds it was really firm underfoot. The team is looking great and it’ll be so fun to get back at it at the Europeans.”
Jess Bailey finished second with 14:53 and ended up being the fastest under-17 athlete in the race.
Unlike the women, the men’s races were individually split up into under-17 and under-20 categories.
Henry McLuckie secured victory in the under-20 race, covering the 6.5km in 19:53.
The 19-year-old will now have the opportunity to add another major medal to his 2021 roster after he won bronze in the 1500m at the European Under-20 Championships.
“I’m happy that I’ve done what I came here to do [make the team],” explained McLuckie, who was also nominated recently as AW British Male Junior Athlete of the Year. “It was very cold. I’m from the Isle of Wight so I’m used to the sun! At least there was no mud and rain this year.
“The aim was to always get a big gap and maintaining it. I’d done a few sessions around here recently so I knew I had to save some in the tank down the back straight.”
Will Barnicoat came second with 20:10 while Liam Rawlings made up the podium with 20:12.
Edward Bird took the honours in the under-17 race as he clocked 16:58.
For the first time in history, qualification for mixed relays took place.
Alex Bell continued her incredible 2021, a year that has seen the 29-year-old reach a maiden 800m Olympic final, with a last gasp one-second victory over Hannah Nuttall in the women’s European short-course relay trial.
Both Bell and Nuttall, who clocked 5:06 and 5:07 respectively, make the team given the top two automatically qualify. Holly Archer was the nearest challenger and she finished in third with 5:10.
A reflective Bell told AW: “It was quite challenging to be fair and it was very fast. It went out from the go and the girls made it a true race. We all had a cracking finish at the end and it was all about having patience.
“When you see the finish in the spotlight you can tend to have get over-excited but it was about timing it to perfection. Bring Dublin on!”
Ben West had an equally tasty end to the race and won by three seconds, timing his sprint to perfection to run 4:28. Luke Duffy finished runner-up, marginally ahead of David Mullarkey, Ben Potrykus and Andrew Smith.
Duffy will join West, Bell and Nuttall in Dublin for the mixed relay. If they take anything out of the camaraderie of the British triathlon team from the Olympics, they’ll stand themselves in good stead.
Elsewhere, the younger age groups all had their opportunities to get competitive and, after finishing their races, get pictures with the Olympic, world and European stars on show in Liverpool.
Shaikira King won the under-15 girls race in 10:29 while Robert Price picked up the honours in the under-15 boys event with 9:20.
There was an incredibly exciting end to the under-13 girls race as both Bailey Hughes and Isabella Doran crossed the line in a near-dead heat of 13:27, the former picking up the win by thousandths of a second.
Calum Dick won the under-13 boys race with 10:12.
How about this for a finish in the U13 girls 3km race?
Bailey Hughes just takes it on the line. pic.twitter.com/1F84lSm1lw
— AW (@AthleticsWeekly) November 27, 2021
The first individual races of the day were the under-11s and Polly Kershaw and Jack Baranowski clocked the fastest times with 7:26 and 6:40 respectively.
British Athletics will announce the full teams for next month’s European Cross Country Championships on Tuesday (Nov 30).
Full results, CLICK HERE