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Athletics: Britton has X factor

Where others got bogged down in the mud of Holyrood Park yesterday, Ireland's Fionnuala Britton glided, leaving all challengers in her wake in the Bupa Great Edinburgh International.

Bobby Mack heads the men's 8K race in Edinburgh   Photograph: SNS
Bobby Mack heads the men's 8K race in Edinburgh Photograph: SNS

Retaining her European title last month, the 28-year-old from Kilcoole was a repeat winner here too, destroying a field which included fellow members of Team Europe, as well as strong British and American squads. All too aware of her dominance in recent years, the rest could only sit back and wait for her to pull clear.

"I was happy to stay until we got over the first logs," Britton said. "But no-one really came up and I had to push on. Once the group was breaking up, there was no point in waiting."

The only contender with sufficient bravado to follow was Jess Coulson, the European Under-23 champion and a victor three months ago on the roads in Edinburgh. The Stockport Harrier eventually faded to fourth, behind Dutchwoman Adrienne Herzog and Mattie Suver of the United States. Britton coasted, shrugging off a tumble in the closing stages to win in 20 minutes and 40 seconds.

With the Europeans taking first place in the race overall, it was enough to give them the meeting's team prize on 154 points, ahead of Great Britain and Northern Ireland with the USA well behind.

On Friday night, revealed Britton, there was a group meeting at which she issued a rallying call. "I really didn't want to say anything but I wanted to put the pressure on the men because they were before us. We weren't in first place going into the last race but we did it."

The quartet of Scots were well adrift with Rosie Smith in 14th place in 21:30 – one spot and two seconds in front of the returning Steph Twell – Beth Potter 17th, and Freya Ross 19th.

"I didn't have great expectations to begin with because I didn't know where I'd be against all these great girls who'd just been at the Europeans," said Twell, after her first major outing in more than six months. "The pressure wasn't on me, so I could just enjoy it and let the race unfold. I felt like I gave it a good go and got stuck in. I haven't run cross-country in a while but it was a solid run."

The USA's Bobby Mack avenged his narrow loss of 12 months ago to Spain's Ayad Lamdassem by winning the senior men's eight-kilometre race. Both had to overhaul Tom Humphries, who charged away in the early stages with a kamikaze-style burst.

"This is going to be my last cross-country for a while so I thought I'd just go for it," the Briton said. With 400 metres left his reserves ran out, and Mack and Lamdassem blew by. The Spaniard seemed stronger but the American snatched victory in 24:27, with Andy Vernon pushing the flagging Humphries into fourth.

In the women's 3K, Genzebe Dibaba was rewarded for an audacious run from the front with victory in 9:46 on the course where her elder sister Tirunesh won the world title five years ago. The 21-year-old, whose Olympic hopes were derailed by injury, broke away to drag fellow Ethiopian Meseret Defar clear, as well as Kenya's Linet Masai.

In the end, the compatriots were left in a private duel but Defar, who retained her 5000m title in London in the summer, conceded defeat as Dibaba sprinted away.

In the junior women's 4K, 2011 European champion Emelia Gorecka led a British sweep of the first six places, finishing 12 seconds clear of Jessica Judd as the hosts coasted to team honours. Europe topped the standings in the junior men's 6K as Macedonian Dino Bosnjak edged out Belgium's Isaac Kimeli for victory.

In the Scottish junior districts, West took three team wins of four, with Edinburgh AC's Josh Kerr breaking their monopoly by leading East to victory in the boys' under-15s. Victoria Park's Gillian Black won the girls' race, while Inverclyde's Ryan Gray and Giffnock's Erin Wallace took the under-13 events.

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