Laura Muir and Maddie Murray (centre) celebrate Euro Cross U23 success with their GB team-mates (photo by Mark Shearman)
Four Scots came home from the Euro Cross with team medals with GB – with our three women making a huge contribution to their team golds.
Laura Muir and Maddie Murray finished fourth and 10th respectively in the U23 race while Steph Twell, like Laura, was in the hunt for the individual medals until late in the Senior race before finishing sixth.
There was a silver team medal for Luke Traynor in the Men’s U23 race, although his 41st place was a disappointment after a mid-race mishap following a fine start by the Giffnock North athlete.
Three team golds was a great haul for the three Scottish women and the three top 10 finishes was similar in some ways to the previous year when Rhona Auckland (first), Callum Hawkins (fifth) and Twell (seventh) made a significant impact on the 2014 Euro Cross in Bulgaria.
It is well worth noting that four of the five athletes involved in those top 10 finishes lived and trained in Scotland – and worked with Scottish coaches – at the time of their Euro Cross involvement.
Muir was always in contention at the front of the 6k battle in benign conditions over the Hippodrome racecourse but faded in the final stages. Maddie Murray savoured a fine 10th place finish with the two Scots thus instrumental in ensuring team gold for GB Women’s U23 beside the Mediterranean.
For Steph there was yet another team gold in the Senior Women’s race as she finished in sixth place as the second British counter, with team-mate Kate Avery taking individual silver behind Dutch winner Sifan Hassan.
Muir was philosophical about missing out on the individual medals as she stepped away from the ‘comfort zone’ of the track – although the French conditions were somewhat removed from the mud of cross country currently being experienced in Scotland.
Laura Muir – U23 medal battle (photo by Mark Shearman)
‘It was tough today – I’m not really sure what happened today,’ said Laura.
‘I ran the race as I had planned to but the last lap was hard and the legs went a bit. The course was good, it suited me as it was quite flat but I could use my strength on the hills. I’m proud with how I ran, I couldn’t have given much more but it just wasn’t my day.
‘I’ve raced against quite a few of these girls before but most of them are 5km based so I knew they would be strong.’
Glasgow University student Muir, who delayed her trip to France to attend classes on Friday, nonetheless lifted the team trophy for GB.
‘I’m very proud of the girls, they all ran really great,’ added the 22-year-old from Milnathort. ‘It’s a team effort as much as individual at these Championships so I’m chuffed for them all to get the gold.’
Maddie Murray – GB debut (photo by Mark Shearman)
It was a superb run by Murray, the Australian-born Edinburgh AC athlete who has an English mother, Scottish residency and a British passport. Murray made her Scotland debut earlier in 2015 and this was an encouraging first appearance in a GB vest.
‘It is so exciting – it is brilliant to be part of a gold-medal winning team. It was so fun coming out here to race as an individual and as part of a team,’ said Maddie.
‘It was a fast course, I knew it was going to be hard after the first kilometre but I did enjoy it. I was quite nervous at the start because I really wanted to do well for the team and I’m so pleased with how the race went.’
Murray’s coach with Edinburgh AC, John Lees, said: ‘I was coaching in Edinburgh at Holyrood Park and watching in my iPhone. It was a great run by Maddie and we’re delighted for her as she works very hard at here athletics.
‘The target was to be the best of the Brits behind Laura Muir and that’s what happened. Maddie was third in the trials in the British U23 so there is improvement there in being the second counter and now she has a team gold medal to bring home.
‘She raced very steadily and then looked to drive towards the end and a top 10 place is a good indication of the progress she has made over the past few years. I think the course in France suited her because essentially she is a track athlete.
‘I’ve not spoken to her yet – the coaching has to continue – and I was at Holyrood Park. It has been a good weekend because Maddie’s training partner, Steph Pennycook, won the East District U20 gold on Saturday at Livingston. Not quite the same conditions at Hyeres, I don’t think!’
Steph Twell (on right) – another fine Euro Cross performance (photo by Mark Shearman)
Twell, a veteran of these occasions with this a remarkable 10th appearance at the Euro Cross, said: ‘It was a good race, I’m disappointed though.
‘I think I executed the race really well up until about the 5th lap and I was still on the tail of the girls, but on the penultimate lap I did all the work because I saw (Sifan) Hassan looked like she was slowing a bit and everyone was cheering and I got really excited.
‘I really pushed to get close to her but I think I took the other girls with me and that caused me to do all the work.
‘It’s still great for our team, I was the second Brit back and I haven’t beaten Gemma (Steel) in a while and she races strong so I’m happy with that and think we’ve done really well.’