The Great Britain & Northern Ireland Team claimed five gold medals and four bronze medals on their way to overall victory at the Spar European Cross Country Championships on Sunday and Wales' representation of six runners - its biggest ever for a Euro Cross - enjoyed great success.
Tom Marshall (Cardiff AAC, James Thie) anchored his team to glory in the mixed relay on his International debut. His compatriot Melissa Courtney (Shaftsbury Barnet, Rob Denmark) had led the quartet off in what was the inaugural hosting of the event.
Tom Marshall (pictured) anchored his team to Gold
Marshall inherited a narrow lead from Sarah McDonald (Birchfield Harriers) on the third leg and crossed the line to secure gold, just one second ahead of the Czech Republic.
"I would have been in trouble if it was mud" admitted Marshall. "It suited me down to the ground. It was the opportunity I needed - the nerves and everything going into it. I'm over the moon. I don't know how fast I ran but I did the job I had to do. It was a real team effort. I've got frostbite in very part of my body but other than that we're good."
Mel Courtney (second right) and Tom Marshall (right)
A little earlier in the day Cari Hughes (Swansea Harriers, Andrew Walling) had become the second British finisher in the junior women's race in ninth place, behind race winner Harriet Knowles-Jones (Warrington AC).
The Swansea Harrier said: “It wasn’t my ideal course but I dealt with it and I’m really happy for the team and I’m really happy with my run as well.
“A little bit more hills would have been good. It just slows it down a little bit. I’m stronger than most on the hills. Coming from Wales, I think we all like a bit of hills and a bit of mud.”
After building on her 64th from the World Cross earlier this year, she said: “It was a lot better race than in the World Cross because the conditions in the World Cross were too hot, and humid. I’ve definitely learned a lot more from this experience and I’ve got a bit more competitive than in the World Cross.”
Cari Hughes on the far right
Matthew Willis (Wrexham AAC) overcame his team mates including trials winner Ben Dijikstra (Leicester AC) to beome the first Briton in the junior men's race with 14th place. Jake Heyward (Cardiff AAC, James Thie) posted a 30th place finish in the same race.
Hopes had been high that Dewi Griffiths (Swansea Harriers, Kevin Evans) could challenge for individual honours following his great marathon debut of 2:09:49 in Frankfurt in October and those feelings seemed justified when he was at the forefront of the lead group for much of the first 4k. However, just after that he suffered a repeat of the hamstring cramp he experienced in Frankfurt and stepped off the course.
“I managed to run through it in the marathon; I couldn’t run in through it today,” he said. “It was pretty cold out there today - maybe that was a factor, I’m not sure.”
Saying he felt easy just before he dropped out, he added: “I think I could have been easy top 10 today, maybe top five. We got bronze as a team, but I think if I’d have finished where I think I could have finished we could have won the gold.”