Loughborough athletes contribute to Britain’s best ever Euro Cross gold medal haul

Athlete Abbie Donnelly competes in the Women's 1500m race

Abbie Donnelly (centre) competes in the Women's 1500m event at the Loughborough International Athletics Meet held at the Paula Radcliffe Athletics Stadium (Photo by David Crawford / www.stillsport.com).

Loughborough athletes contributed to a record GB&NI medal haul at this weekend’s European Cross Country Championships, with all but one Loughborough student, alumni or Loughborough-based athlete returning from Brussels with a medal in their bags.

There were brilliant individual bronze medals for current students Abbie Donnelly and Matt Stonier in the Senior Women and U23 men’s races respectively. In one of the best fought races of her career, Donnelly won her first individual major Championships medal as she finished in third place and first British woman across the line.

She was closely followed by alumna Jess Warner-Judd who finished in fifth place, and Izzy Fry, a member of the Engand Athletics Hub at Loughborough, who finished in 10th place. All three subsequently contributed to the GB&NI women taking the senior team gold.

Current scholar Matt Stonier dug in deep to finish in third place, chasing down fellow Brit Will Barnicoat in the latter stages of the U23 men’s race. With Barnicoat going onto win overall, the team gold was never in doubt. Unfortunately, alumnus and reigning U23 10,000m Champion Rory Leonard had to withdraw with injury part way through the race.

There was team gold for the women’s U23 team, with current students Alex Millard and Tia Wilson finishing in 11th and 34th respectively. Loughborough-based Olivia Mason finished in 44th place. They all followed home British teammate Megan Keith, who produced the largest winning margin in European Cross Country history as she secured gold by 83 seconds.

The men’s U20 team, which was made up of 50 per cent of current Loughborough students, won team silver, with Rowan Miell-Ingram finishing in 13th place, Sam Hodgson in 25th and Louis Small just behind in 29th. The team were beaten into second place by just two points from a victorious Irish team who took team gold.

The men’s Senior team were the only team to miss out on medals, coming in 5th place overall, with Loughborough alumnus Angus McMillan finishing in 38th place on his GB debut.

Finally, one of the most exciting races of the day featured another strong Loughborough contingent. The mixed 4 x 1500m relay was led off by alumnus Josh Lay who was in second place at the end of his leg, before handing over to current student, and part time staff member, Bethan Morley.

Morley took the lead, handing over to teammate Adam Fogg who stretched out the GB&NI lead. With teams able to change their running orders as the race was ongoing, the British team went for different tactics than their European counterparts, placing female athlete Khahisa Mhlanga on the last lap. As Mhlanga entered the final lap with a 55 second lead, other teams had their male athletes lined up and despite a brave effort, she was just reeled in by France and Netherlands, for the Brits to take bronze.

Kyle Bennett, Loughborough’s Head of Endurance and Men’s GB&NI U20 Team Coach at the European Cross, had only good things to say about the team and the competition: “The European Cross Country is a great competition where GB&NI always do well. It’s a great development opportunity, as well as a chance for athletes to shine in a major Championships environment.

“To have so many Loughborough athletes compete here was particularly special, and we will take the positive experiences from here to push forwards to the rest of the cross country, road and indoor season.”