'Not part of gameplan' - Megan Keith keeps calm to land gold at European cross-country championships

Megan Keith radiated calm in collecting gold at the European cross-country championships in Ireland on Sunday. Inside, as the finish line beckoned her home, the 19-year-old from Inverness confessed to feeling anything but.

Emma Heckel of Germany, Megan Keith of Great Britain and Ingeborg Ostgard of Norway compete during the U-20 Women race of the European Cross Country Championships.
Emma Heckel of Germany, Megan Keith of Great Britain and Ingeborg Ostgard of Norway compete during the U-20 Women race of the European Cross Country Championships.

Courageous in accelerating to the fore on the muddy fields of Fingal, the teenager’s decision to bet on herself by moving to the front at the half-way point of the 4km circuit paid off. “I knew I was leading at the stage that I didn’t necessarily want to lead at,” she admitted. “But I assumed there was a massive group behind me.”

The whole field were in pursuit of the Edinburgh University student but the gap was insurmountable and she was three seconds clear at the conclusion, doubling her reward by leading the UK to a bronze from the team points standings.

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“Winning was not part of the game plan,” she confirmed. “The adrenaline at the start … you never know if something is an incredibly fast pace or whether people are making it tactical because there’s so much energy. So I didn’t think it was moving quick enough for me to be in with a chance at the end.

“It was amazing when I crossed the line. The whole way down the straight, I thought there was someone there. I don’t think I‘ve run that quickly down the finishing straight my whole life. But it was the time to do it.”

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The Brits took their habitual seat atop the final medal tally with eight in total, with Olympic 800 metres finalist Alex Bell the ace in the pack in the mixed relay and Charles Hicks confidently unleashing a late sprint to prevail in the Under-23 men’s race.

Scottish prospects Hamish Armitt and Lewis Hannigan, tenth and 65th individually, plundered under-20 men team gold, while Jess Judd’s dogged fourth place in the senior women’s race behind Norwegian victor Karoline Grovdal was the bedrock of a fifth British gold from the team count.

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Glasgow-based prospect Eloise Walker earned team bronze from the U-23 women’s contest but was dissatisfied with her 19th place at the close of a year interrupted by injury. “If I ran it again, I would do it a bit differently,” she said.

The GB&NI’s senior men departed empty-handed as Norway’s omnipotent Jakob Ingebrigtsen added the crown to his Olympic 1500m gold. Central AC club-mates Andy Butchart and Jamie Crowe were two seconds apart in 23rd and 24th, with fellow Scot Stuart McCallum 27th.