HAVING narrowly missed out on qualification for the GB team for the European Cross-country Championships, Reading Athletic Club’s Georgia Hayes and Jess Gibbon were handed international call-ups to compete for England in the Italica International Cross-Country in Seville, Spain.

More than 2,000 athletes from all over the world took part in the annual international cross-country event, set among the ruins of the Roman city of Santiponce, seven kilometres from Seville.

Both Gibbon (Senior) and Hayes (Under 20) travelled to Spain full of confidence from their victories in the Hampshire League at Prospect Park the previous week.

For Hayes, this would be a first international appearance, while Gibbon had previous international experience having won a team gold at the European Cross-Country Championships in Belgrade in 2013.

In the U20 women’s race, Hayes was happy to let the rest of the field do the early running and then worked her way through the field steadily until catching up with the early race leader, Spain’s Angela Viciosa Villa.

With around 600m to go, Hayes pulled away and the Spanish athlete had no response as she opened up a three-second gap to ensure a memorable win on her international debut.

England’s Holly Smith, Imogen Wood and Courtney Howard were fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.

Gibbon then lined up alongside England team-mates Kate Avery, Dani Chattenton and Hannah Irwin for a senior women’s race which featured a number of top Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes, and it was the African runners who were immediately to the fore with Kenya’s Margaret Chelimo taking victory over her compatriot Beatrice Chebet.

Experienced GB international Avery was England’s first runner home in 10th place, followed by Chattenton in 14th, with Reading’s Gibbon running strongly for 19th and Irwin not far behind in 25th.