By Owen Morgan
Charlotte Arter is hoping to bring her world-beating form into this weekend’s Simplyhealth Great Stirling XCountry event.
The Cardiff AAC athlete, who set a new female world best time at her home city’s parkrun last Saturday, is one of four Welsh athletes in the Great Britain squad which takes on teams from the USA and Europe in Scotland.
Arter is joined by compatriots Charlie Hulson, Kris Jones and Matt Willis, who all joined her in picking up team silver medals for Great Britain in their respective races at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships before Christmas.
The 27-year-old couldn’t be in better form coming into the annual international match, which is being held in Stirling for the first time having previously been hosted by Edinburgh.
“Since the Europeans, which were at the beginning of December, I had a nice down week after that then I’ve had a really solid three weeks of training,” said Arter.
“The parkrun was just a test to see where we were at and to get the lungs and legs going. It gives lots of confidence ahead of the cross country on Saturday.
“It’s a new course to me. I did the event two years ago when it was held in Edinburgh, which was a great course on the side of Arthur’s Seat, so it was a true cross country course.
“I’m not sure what the Stirling course is like this year but I’m sure it will be a good test of cross country here in the UK.
“I think we’ve got a really strong team. Picking up silver at the Europeans proves that we’ve got a solid team and I think the Europe team will be strong as well as the US. But I think that with the team we’ve got we can definitely be up there getting the team gold. We’ll see how it pans out.”
While Arter lines-up in the senior women’s race, the senior men’s race features Swansea Harrier Jones, who finished 12th overall at the Europeans and Liverpool ACs Charlie Hulson, who won the Cardiff Cross Challenge last October.
Wrexham AC’s Willis completes the Welsh quartet in the mixed under-20 relay. The multi-talented triathlete finished third in the U-20 race at last year’s event on the former course in Edinburgh.
The Welsh contingent are part of a formidable 20-strong Great Britain team which also features the likes of European 1500m champion and double world indoor medallist Laura Muir and England’s Verity Ockenden, who runs for Swansea Harriers.
The Great Britain team leader is Welsh Athletics national coach Chris Jones, who is optimistic of success. “The team is brimming with cross country experience that will prove vital in navigating the course in such a hotly contested event against some of the best athletes from across Europe and the USA and I’m optimistic of yet another excellent showing from the British team.”
The USA challenge will be led by 2016 Olympian Leonrard Korir, who is the back-to-back reigning individual champion from the Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh Xcountry event.
Korir, will be joined in the senior men’s team by Ben Blankenship, Hillary Bor, Garrett Heath, Ryan Mahalsky and David Elliott.
Heath won the Great Edinburgh XCountry three times and will look to usurp Korir’s reign.
The women’s team boasts returning athletes Anne-Marie Blaney and Olivia Pratt, both of Rochester Hills, Michigan, while the under-20 squad features Kelsey Chmiel, who dominated the 2018 4km field in Edinburgh and brought home gold in 14:10.
The European team will be equally formidable featuring seven individual medallists from the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Tilburg.
Team Europe ran out victorious in Edinburgh last year and this time features four of the top eight finishers from Tilburg, including silver and bronze medallists Isaac Kimeli from Belgium and Aras Kaya from Turkey.
The senior women’s team is led by the recently crowned European U23 cross country champion Anna Emilie Moller who picked up only Denmark’s second gold medal in SPAR European Cross Country Championships history in Tilburg.
Moller will be a familiar figure to Welsh athletics fans having won the Cardiff Cross Challenge last October.
The new venue for this year’s event features approximately 190m elevation and will include beautiful views of Central Scotland and Stirling Castle.
The international match will feature a senior men’s race over 8k, a senior women’s 6k race and a 4×1.5kx mixed relay for seniors and under-20s.
The event will be shown live on BBC 1 from 13:15 to 15:15.
The full GB team is:
Patrick Dever (Andy Bibby; Preston)
Charlie Hulson (Chris Jones; Liverpool)
Kristian Jones (Swansea)
Ross Millington (Steve Vernon; Stockport)
Marc Scott (Jerry Schumacher; Richmond & Zetland)
Andy Vernon (self; Aldershot, Farnham & District)
Charlotte Arter (Chris Jones; Cardiff)
Kate Avery (Shildon)
Emily Hosker-Thornhill (Mick Woods; Aldershot, Farnham & District)
Verity Ockenden (Tony Houchin; Swansea)
Jess Piasecki (Robert Hawkins; Stockport)
Pippa Woolven (Matt Whiting; Wycombe)
Senior Mixed Relay
Alex Bell (Andrew Henderson; Pudsey & Bramley)
Laura Muir (Andy Young; Dundee Hawkhill)
Philip Sesemann (Andrew Henderson; Leeds City AC)
Jamie Williamson (George Gandy; Springburn)
Junior Mixed Relay
Charlotte Alexander (Wayne Vinton; Herne Hill)
Grace Brock (Cornwall)
Jack Meijer (Barry Hearn; Marshall Milton Keynes)
Matt Willis (self; Wrexham).