Frisby’s Mari Smith defeats big rivals in top six GB finish

Mari Smith powers through the mud at the British Universities Cross Country Championships EMN-160902-120739002
Mari Smith powers through the mud at the British Universities Cross Country Championships EMN-160902-120739002
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In-form runner Mari Smith continued her fine winter season by claiming some big scalps at the British Universities (BUCS) Cross Country Championships on Saturday.

The Frisby athlete finished sixth after an excellent run in atrocious conditions to help the University of Birmingham win the team gold medal.

Frisby athlete Mari Smith celebrates winning a team silver medal for Great Britain at the European Cross Country Championships at Toulon EMN-160902-120726002

Frisby athlete Mari Smith celebrates winning a team silver medal for Great Britain at the European Cross Country Championships at Toulon EMN-160902-120726002

Faced with an extremely muddy course at Gloucester, Smith settled into the race well and held sixth place for most of it.

The 19-year-old moved into fifth after passing Louise Small in the last 400 metres.

But she was pipped to a top five finish on the run-in when a fast-finishing Beth Hawling caught her by surprise and left her with no time to respond.

The Birmingham team had three runners in the top six, comfortably winning the gold medal from St Mary’s University, London, and Loughborough.

Yet perhaps as encouraging for Smith were those athletes left trailing in her wake.

They included Commonwealth Games finalist Jessica Judd, European Youth Olympic silver medallist Adelle Tracey and British international and county rival Amy Griffiths.

Coach Bill Winters said: “This was a performance full of grit, determination and character.

“The course, although flat, was a real test as it was effectively a sea of mud and she coped with it brilliantly.”

The performance maintained her confident form over the cross country season which earned her a call-up for Great Britain at the European Junior Championships in December.

She followed this last month with a surprise senior international debut for England at the Great Edinburgh International Cross Country.

Smith will also now be one of several athletes in contention for places in the Great Britain students’ team to go to the World University Cross Country Championships in Italy next month.