Spalding’s Charlotte Taylor led Great Britain to team gold in the European Cross Country Championship held in Slovakia on Sunday.
The 23-year-old Nene Valley Harrier was not at her best in the national trials a fortnight ago, finishing 17th, but gained selection as a result of her impressive form on the Stateside college circuit and finished in sixth place at the weekend.
“I’d thought I was in good enough form to make the European cross-country team,” said Taylor, “so I was disappointed to finish so far off that goal at Liverpool and thought I had blown my chance of a place on the team.
“I’m incredibly grateful that the selectors had faith in my potential and were able to offer me the chance to prove myself.”
The San Francisco University student carved her way through the field, finishing as the first British woman in a star-studded team.
After collecting her team gold, Taylor said: “I’m delighted with how the race went. I didn’t have any specific expectations with regards to where I wanted to place going into the race, since it’s my first senior cross-c0untry race at this level and I haven’t raced many of these girls before.
“But finishing sixth and leading the GB team to the team gold really exceeded anything I could have hoped for.
“The surface was good and made for fast racing. I started off fairly conservatively and was able to work my way through the field throughout the later laps.
“After a below-par performance at the trials in Liverpool, I’m really happy I was able to reward the selectors’ faith in me and finish my cross country season on a high.”
The BBC commentary team featuring Steve Cram and Paula Radcliffe couldn’t hide their surprise that Taylor had out-run every one of her British teammates, but they are likely to pay her much closer attention in future.
Looking forwards, Taylor will head back to the US in January and begin preparing for her final college track season.
She explained: “I might run a few indoor races first, and then I’ll turn my attention to the 10,000m for the outdoor track season.
“I’d love to compete at the European championships, but I’m not yet sure whether the qualification procedure will fit in with my National Collegiate Athletic Association commitments.
“Longer term, making an Olympic team would be a dream come true, so I’ll keep working towards that.
“But I enjoy training and racing so much that I don’t spend too much time thinking that far into the future – I prefer to just enjoy each day and opportunity as it comes, and aim to give each one my best effort.”
• Thorney’s Kerry Cochrane was first over the line in the 3rd Round of the Harrier 5k Handicap League at Lynch Wood.
Cochrane ran a time of 25:47, finishing just inches ahead of runner-up Julia Knight-Jones, also of Thorney.
Nene Valley’s Bradley Allen ran the fastest time of the night with a 17.08 clocking.
Megan Ellison of Nene Valley crossed the line in 19.11 to record the quickest female time.
Eye’s Gerry Parr leads the series ahead of Valley pair Bradley Allen and David Marr.