Loughborough success at Liverpool Cross Challenge

Athlete Beth Morely wins the 2023 BUCS short course race

Beth Morley winning the 2023 BUCS short course race. Photo credit: Sakura Sports Media

Although a typical Saturday in Liverpool is full of either Everton blue or Liverpool FC red, on Saturday 25th November, Merseyside’s Sefton Park had a distinctive African Violet feel to it.

The Liverpool Cross Challenge doubles up as the Great Britain and Northern Ireland European Cross Country trials, and there were 11 current students, alumni and Loughborough-hub based athletes who gained automatic selection on to the team that will race in Brussels on the 10th of December.

The day started with the men’s and women’s short course relay trial, the winner of which is guaranteed a spot onto the GB & NI mixed 4 x mile relay team. It was double Loughborough success as alumnus Josh Lay took victory after a frustrating few years of injury, while the women’s race was won by current student and reigning BUCS indoor 1500m Champion Bethan Morley. While Lay is no stranger to International competition, after winning European U20 bronze back in 2019, it will be Morely’s first time in a GB & NI vest. Loughborough scholar Alex Melloy finished the men’s race in 3rd place, while Loughborough’s Ty Brockley-Langford was 11th in the women’s.

Loughborough success continued later in the day with the men’s U20 trial, where Loughborough had four finishers in the top 10. Sam Hodgson backed up his excellent running from the Cardiff Cross Challenge to finish in second place, with Louis Small in third, Rowan Miell-Ingram in fifth and Jack Small in eighth. With the top 5 all gaining automatic selection onto the GB&NI team, there will be three U20 Loughborough men making their mark on the European stage.

In the women’s U20 race, India Barwell and Emily Parker had fantastic races to finish 6th and 7th respectively, but may not have done quite enough to gain selection as those in the U17 race will also be looking for the selectors' nod as they look to race up an age group on a European level.

The women’s combined U23 and senior trial had a distinctive Loughborough feel, as five of the top 10 have Loughborough links. PhD candidate and scholar Abbie Donnelly was second overall and first in the senior race to gain GB&NI automatic selection, with England Athletics Loughborough-hub athlete Izzy Fry taking second place in the senior race. Alumna Jess Warner-Judd made it a clean sweep of Loughborough success to join Donnelly and Fry onto the senior team, while Alex Millard was 5th overall and second U23 to also secure her selection for Brussels. 1500m World Championships finalist and Loughborough-based Melissa Courtney-Bryant was 9th overall.

The final race of the day had further Loughborough success with four Loughborough linked in the top 10. Matt Stonier had a storming finish to place 2nd overall and top U23. He will be joined on the U23 team by alumnus Rory Leonard. Alumni Angus McMillan and Charlie Wheeler who finished 7th and 10th overall respectively will be hoping the selection meeting taking place later today goes their way as they finished 5th and 8th in the senior competition.

Loughborough’s Head of Endurance, Kyle Bennett, who will also act as a team coach on the GB&NI team travelling to the European Cross Country Championships, was delighted with the Loughborough results: “11 Loughborough athletes receiving automatic selection onto the GB&NI team is a fantastic achievement, and reflects the really positive work taking place at Loughborough. I want to thank the full support team we have at Loughborough including coaches, therapists and sport science practitioners, who are invested in helping the athletes reach their goals. Hopefully, we will see a few more Loughborough names on the final team after selections on Monday 27th November”.  

A full report on the race can be found on the British Athletics website: MEGAN KEITH AND HUGO MILNER AMONG THE WINNERS AT LIVERPOOL CROSS | British Athletics