Great Britain & NI topped the medal table at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships for the seventh time this decade, winning five gold medals across the programme.
In fact, the Brits were only one of two nations to win multiple gold medals at the Bela Vista Park in Lisbon alongside France who won two gold medals in the men’s U23 race courtesy of the exploits of Jimmy Gressier successfully defending both his individual and team titles.
After missing out on the medals in the mixed relay in Tilburg last year, the Brits were back on top of the podium in near gun-to-tape fashion. Sarah McDonald, who was part of the gold medal-winning quartet when the event made its debut in Samorin two years ago, put the Brits in contention for the title on the first leg before Jonny Davies - the individual U23 champion in Hyeres four years ago - brought the quartet home in 17:55 ahead of last year’s bronze medalists Belarus in 18:01 and France in 18:05.
Jessica Judd couldn’t quite hold onto the bronze medal in the mixed relay last year but she performed excellently in the senior women’s race, leading Great Britain to the team title ahead of Ireland and Portugal. Competing on what she described as the toughest course she has ever raced on, Judd finished sixth individually - two places ahead of Charlotte Arter - to add to her medal haul which already includes individual U20 and U23 medals from the European Cross Country Championships.
This completed the second part of a British team double in the senior races after Great Britain beat Belgium by only two points for the men’s team title.
Andrew Butchart and Ben Connor were part of the gold medal-winning British team in 2016 and they joined forces again yesterday, finishing fifth and ninth individually to help the Brits regain the team title. This was only their third gold medal from the senior men’s team race after prior successes in 1999 and 2016.
Great Britain also swept the gold medals in the U20 team race. With their three counters finishing inside the top eleven, the Brits won gold in the first race of the day - the men’s U20 race - with 25 points ahead of Norway with 38 points but the women’s U20 race was a decidedly tighter affair.
The Brits had won this title on 15 prior occasions and they won their 16th in Lisbon by the narrowest of margins. Both Great Britain and Italy were tied on 29 points but the Brits packed better with three counters inside the top twelve which gave them the verdict.