USA’s Hillary Bor recovered from a mid-race wrong turn to win the men’s 8km at the Simply Health Great Stirling X-Country while Germany’s Elena Burkard bagged maximum points for the European team by winning the women’s 6km event on Saturday (12).
Europe came out on top in the three-way match between them, the USA and hosts Great Britain, but the home crowd was treated to a triumphant run from the British team in the mixed 4x1.5km relay, anchored by European 1500m champion Laura Muir.
Defending champion Leonard Korir led the men’s race for most of the first three laps. US team-mate Bor took up the running towards the end of the fourth 1.5km lap as the field embarked on the two 1km circuits.
Former Great X-Country winner Garrett Heath was close behind with Europe’s Aras Kaya, Adel Mechaal and Napoleon Solomon also in close pursuit.
Bor and Korir then opened up a gap on their opponents, but little more than a minute later the US duo took a brief wrong turn. They lost just a few seconds but it was enough to cost them the lead.
Heath suddenly found himself at the front with Solomon and Mechaal close behind. Bor and Korir soon made their way back to the front but they were having to share the lead with Solomon, Heath and Mechaal.
Heath dropped off the lead pack during the last lap, while Bor and Korir regained their earlier momentum and were back in the lead by a couple of strides. It was by no means a decisive lead, though, because as the finish line came into view, Solomon and Mechaal were kicking hard to push the US pair all the way.
Bor just about held on to the lead, crossing the finish line in 23:48 just ahead of Solomon and Mechaal with Korir finishing fourth. Just one second separated the lead quartet.
“It was a good race,” said Bor, an Olympic steeplechase finalist in 2016. “It was windy but I felt good and I knew I had a chance. I knew we were meant to turn right but I didn’t see the rope. My training had been good so I knew I was strong and had a chance to catch them.
“I’ve never won a cross country race before so it felt good to win today.”
Britain’s two-time European cross-country silver medallist Kate Avery led during the early stages of the women’s 6km event. The first lap was covered in 5:10 with the second lap marginally quicker at 5:05.
Britain’s Charlotte Arter had moved to the front of the pack on the second lap, but the top 12 women were bunched within two seconds of one another at the half-way point.
Followed by Germany’s Elena Burkard, Arter broke away from the rest of the field on the third lap, but as the duo reached the bell in 15:06, Burkard moved into the lead.
The versatile runner went on to extend her lead on the final 1.5km circuit, eventually winning comfortably in 20:01. Arter crossed the line five seconds later while Denmark’s Anna Moller finished third in 20:11.
In the mixed 4x1.5km relay, Craig Nowak gave USA an early lead by handing over a few seconds in front of Britain’s Jamie Williamson. But 800m specialist Alexandra Bell produced a strong leg for the host team to give Britain a significant lead at half way.
Phillip Sesemann then took up the running for Britain and maintained the team’s winning margin, handing over to Laura Muir. The double world indoor medallist matched Bell’s split of 4:38 to bring the team home in 17:36.
Europe, anchored by Spain’s Solange Andreia Pereira, finished nine seconds adrift in second place with USA further back in third in 18:01.
“The team set it up so I just had to be strong and hold that lead on the last leg,” said Muir. “I love racing on home soil.”
Europe comfortably won the overall team match with 55 points while Great Britain just edged USA, 84 to 90, for second spot.