ATHLETICS: HELSBY schoolgirl Karrie Hawitt put her birthday celebrations on hold while she led the Great Britain team home in the junior women's race at the IAAF World Cross-country Championships in Brussels on Saturday.
The Chester-born world mountain-running champion, who goes to Helsby High School, had a magnificent GB debut on this surface the day after turning 18.
Karrie was 26th in 22 minutes in a six-kilometre race, which was won in 20:48 by Meselech Melkamu as Ethiopians filled the first four places. The British team was 11th and she was their only top-50 finisher.
Karrie, who is a member of Warrington AC and holder of the U20 women's title which she won in impressive style at the Reebok UK Inter-Counties Cross-Country Championships a fortnight ago, said: 'I think I'll have a party tonight. It was not as hard as I thought it would be.
'The team leaders had kept telling us how fierce the pace would be, so I went out there ready for the worst. I was wanting a place in the top 50 so I'm well pleased, especially as I've been worried by a cold all week. It only went away yesterday.'
She has produced good performances on all surfaces except the track, and she wants to put that right with a preference for the steeplechase event.
Another Chester-born athlete, Rob Birchall, now living in Peterborough, made his GB debut in the four kilometre race, finishing 87th in 12:44.
He said: 'It was OK. I ran as well as I could. I didn't have the basic speed for the first 500 metres but, after that, I was moving through and holding my own.
'I am just pleased to be competing at the World Championships, but there was not a lot I could do in my training in the last couple of weeks after having targeted the 12k race. I saw at least five athletes fall over - it was pretty horrendous.'
West Kirby's Andrew Baddeley, a student at Cambridge University, was 93rd in the race in 12:46, also making his senior British debut.