Charlotte Arter, Jake Heyward and Cari Hughes powered to a hat-trick of wins on an incredible day for Welsh Athletics at the British Cross Challenge and European Cross Country Trials in Liverpool.
Cardiff’s Arter won the senior women’s race with Heyward and Hughes triumphing in their respective Junior races at Sefton Park.
The event took place within the Liverpool Cross Challenge with several other Welsh athletes also booking their places at the European Championships in Tilburg, Holland, on December 9.
Hughes was the first Welsh victor of the day, taking to the front of the U20 women’s race with around 300m to go and finishing just a second ahead of runner-up, Berkshire Champion Amelia Quirke. The Swansea Harrier will now look to lead the British Athletics team as they bid to retain their team gold medals from 12 months ago and to improve on her individual ninth place from last time. We caught up with the Swansea athlete after the race, and you can hear her reaction here
Cari Hughes won the first trial race of the day.
Heyward was a pre-race favourite for the U20 men’s race and didn’t disappoint with an emphatic victory, as the Cardiff AAC man accelerated away from Isaac Akers to claim victory by the largest winning margin of the day, crossing the line in 19:41 and 12 seconds ahead of the chasing pack. “I enjoyed the course and was happy to win. I’m really looking forward to the European’s, I can’t wait to see what I can do’, said Heyward after his victory.
Jake Heyward sealed an U20 win.
Further Welsh success here came with Wrexham AAC’s Matt Willis finishing fourth and also securing an automatic qualifying spot for the European Championships.
The senior women’s race was incredibly competitive and included a former European Cross Country Championship silver medallist, a former European U23 champion, several British Champions and a number of Olympians. It was Cardiff AAC's Charlotte Arter who took them all by surprise though, as she stormed to victory in 26:10 ahead of Jess Piasecki to secure Wales' third win of the afternoon.
Charlotte Arter taking victory in the women's race.
“It was a really quick pace, everyone was in it really until the last lap,” said Arter. “I felt really strong, I knew it would come down to endurance rather than speed in the end. I missed last year’s Euro Cross because I had an Achilles injury and I wasn’t in shape but I made the team in 2016 and it’s a real joy to be back in the British team and earn another British vest."
Melissa Courtney was the next Welsh athlete home in fourth, just eight seconds adrift as she also secured her spot on the plane to Tilburg. Wales’ Jenny Nesbitt also gave a gutsy performance as she battled to a 12th placed finish.
Dewi Griffiths and Charlie Hulson had both started amongst the favourites in the 9.8km senior men’s race with Griffiths a previous Inter-Counties Champion and Hulson having won the English National Championships as a guest in 2015. Griffiths took a share of the lead in the early stages and along with Hulson, was never far from the front. A trio of rival athletes got away from the pair in the final stages but Hulson hung on for a credible fourth place, with Griffiths fifth, also securing an automatic team place. Hulson reacted to his fourth placed finish after the race, watch the full video here. Swansea Harrier Kris Jones was sixth so will now have to wait to hear if he will board the plane for the Netherlands.
Results for Welsh Athletics representatives at Liverpool Cross Challenge:
Senior Men: Charlie Hulson - 4th, Dan Nash - 37th
Senior Women - Charlotte Arter - 1st, Jenny Nesbitt - 12th
Junior Men - Jake Heyward - 1st, Matt Willis 4th, Ben Thomas - 39th, Dominic Smith - 43rd, Elliot Lawrence - 45th, Larry Ryan - 52nd
Junior Women - Cari Hughes - 1st, Kiara Frizelle - 28th
U17 Women: Mia Roberts - 23rd, Eden O'Dea - 31st, Ashleigh Willis - 32nd
Other Notable Welsh Performances;
Senior Men: Dewi Griffiths - 5th, Kris Jones - 6th
Senior Women: Mel Courtney - 4th