Clay made of strong stuff

Clay made of strong stuff
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Great Britain's Bobby Clay celebrates her gold medal over 1500m at the European Athletics Junior Championships in Eskilstuna last summer.

Bobby Clay is a prime example of the roller-coaster ride an athlete can take, and now she is on the uphill climb towards the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Hyères on 13 December.

Clay, 18, took gold in July when she won the 1500m (4:17.91) at the European Athletics Junior Championships in Eskilstuna, after a winter where she wasn’t able to run cross country due to injury.

But now she is back to competing on the terrain - winning at the British Athletics Cross Challenge series in Milton Keynes on Saturday, a good test ahead of the championships in just over a month.

Clay triumphed by 30 seconds in 16:42 from Harriet Knowles-Jones in the women’s under-20 race and she hopes it will be the start of a successful winter.

"I love cross country, so it is so good to be back," said Clay, speaking to British Athletics. "This is why I train, to compete like this. Hopefully it is a preview of what is to come."

It was a fine performance, as she took control of the race after the first lap, and it came on the day where a double European Cross medallist also had a fine win.

Louise Damen, who won team silver in 2008 and team bronze in 2012, took the senior women’s race in 20:22 from Elle Vernon (20:34), and looked ahead to the trials for the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Liverpool on 28 November.

It was Damen’s first race in six months and she said: "I had a rough summer so I was coming out today not really sure what shape I was in but I had to throw myself in the deep end. I want to be ready for Liverpool, so what better place to get started than here and pitching myself against some really good girls."

Jonny Davies won the men’s senior race (29:49) from Jonny Taylor (30:00) and has his sights on Hyères.

He told British Athletics: "It’s my first senior Cross Challenge win so it bodes well for Liverpool. My main focus is the Euros, getting there and winning a medal."

Samorin was the stage for the Slovak Cross Country Championships and the men’s race saw a dramatic, close finish with European places at stake.

In the end the title was retained by Peter Durec who beat the national marathon champion Juraj Vitko by the slimmest of margins over 9km with both men given the time of 28:37 as Jaroslav Szabo (28:42) also qualified for France as he finished third.

Victory in the women’s race of 7.2km went to marathoner Katarina Beresova as she landed her sixth national cross country crown (25:27).

Beresova is not competing at the championships but Jana Martinska (25:46) and Nikola Corbova (26:15) will be in the team after finishing second and third respectively.

Michal Talan (17:25) won over 5.4km and Zuzana Durcova (12:53) won over 3.6km to book their spots for the junior races in Hyères.

Ivan Sirakova (33:41) at 10km and Silvia Danekova (28:36) at 8km showed their form as they triumphed at the Bulgarian Cross Country Championships in Koynare, while in Levico Terme, there was an excellent return after injury for Italy's Federica Del Buono, the European Indoor 1500m bronze medallist,

Over 8km, she won the Cross of the Valsugana by three seconds from 20:09 Federica Dal Ri as Marco Salami (23:37) took the men’s 10km race.