Haugen delivers for Team Europe in Edinburgh; Muir powers to mixed relay win

Laura Muir in Edinburgh

Laura Muir came from behind to deliver a popular victory on home soil in the mixed 4x1km at the Great Edinburgh XCountry

In the week of his 18th birthday, Norway’s Simen Halle Haugen really did have something to celebrate at the Great Edinburgh XCountry, a European Athletics Cross Country Permit Meeting, on Saturday (13).

On a cold and blustery afternoon at the famous Holyrood Park, Haugen did more than just give Team Europe victory in the opening race of this annual match against Great Britain and the USA.

In the U20 men’s 6km made up of four laps of 1500 metres, Haugen showed just how strong distance running is in his home country after a 2017 season which saw Jakob Ingebrigtsen and Sondre Nordstad Moen make headlines for their achievements.

Haugen did not make quite the same impression last year but four days after turning 18, he has began his season with a bang and a brilliant victory, winning in 19:13 from Ouassim Oumaiz, of Spain (19:16) and Britain’s Matthew Willis (19:18). In fifth, Spain’s Mario Garcia made it three athletes donning the Team Europe in the first five.

With the famous Arthur’s Seat mountain peak as part of this picturesque setting in Edinburgh, Haugen was eye-catching with his performance. He showed great speed in the closing stages with his individual success leading Team Europe to take an early advantage in the competition with 18 points from Britain (30) and the United States (32).

Twelve months ago, Jasmijn Lau from the Netherlands ran a fine second here but the reigning European U20 5000m champion and pre-race favourite had to settle for third in the U20 women’s 4km which saw Kelsey Chmiel from the United States break away early.

It was not until the final kilometre that Lau narrowed the gap and she was making such great strides that it looked like she might catch Chmiel. The tape arrived too soon for Chmiel who was in 14:10 while Lau was pipped on the finish-line by her Team Europe compatriot Mariana Machado from Portugal, both in 14:13.

The British team won the team title at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Samorin last month and despite the absence of Harriet Knowles-Jones who has since stepped up into the senior ranks, the Brits still triumphed in the team race with 26 points ahead of the United States (27) and Team Europe (30).

But the juniors had left Team Europe in front in the match with 48 points from Britain (56) and the United States (59) with two races left to run.

Muir anchors Great Britain to mixed relay victory

While it was not part of the match, one of the stars of the day was always going to be double European Indoor champion Laura Muir and she did not disappoint in front of her home crowd.

It is busy time for Muir, who is in the final months of her veterinary studies while looking towards the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham in March and the European Championships in Berlin in August.

Muir ran in the 4x1000m relay for the Stewart Cup and what a performance she produced on the final leg for Britain and their squad of Tom Marshall, Alex Bell and Adam Clarke.

Taking over from Clarke, Muir just stormed away to lead her team to victory in 11:33 from Great Britain in 11:40 and Team Europe in 11:41.

“It was great fun; I always love competing here," said Muir. "It is fantastic to get another win in the relay; the team did a great job of getting me into a good position so I just had to bring it home for them which I’m happy I was able to do.

“I knew when Adam came around the bend I was going to have to work hard to push on but I’m really pleased to get the win. It is another stepping stone as we build it up this year so I’m glad to run a good leg for the team.”