SGH’s thrilling Big Time Debut

Belles newcomer Sophie Harris attacks without fear at Liverpool Euro Cross-Challenge

With evergreen Faye Fullerton [left] looking on, Sophie Harris is given one of the scariest chaperones in modern GB XC history by Emelia Gorecka [race winner], Lily Partridge [5th] and Elle Vernon [1075, 4th]; and out of shot are the small matter of Jess Judd, Steph Twell and Gemma Steel! It’s a terrifying prospect and yes, it couldn’t last, but what a glimpse of things to come.

It is already one of the most remarkable tales in the Belles’ 41-year history, how within a year an ex-dancer went from unknown pavement pounder to being snapped with the great Emelia Gorecka in the trials for the Great Britain team.

Yes, racing nous and strategy are still ‘works in progress’ and going out at full whack in races with porridge-like goop on the ground rather than tarmac is not the blueprint for optimum return, but this courage and aggressive spirit is something that can easily be tempered.  What’s much harder to work with is race-day nerves and the pessimistic outlook that the race will be hard.  Sophie appears to welcome the violence of top level racing, and even revel in it.  We all hope this is merely the start of a long and exciting journey as one of the most promising newcomers in the land.

Matt Welsh takes up the story:

On Saturday Sophie ventured up north to the  wet and muddy British Cross Challenge in Liverpool; perhaps the strongest field of any race on the British calendar.

Given the depth of the field, this race was all about experience for Sophie. The plan was to sit in towards the back of the first pack and see how the race developed.

The more circumspect Hannah Viner bears down on SGH and would place 9 places higher, but Viner’s no slouch with a 9:34 3k (to Sophie’s 9:38), so in actual fact Sophie’s early exuberance appears to have cost her very little
After a stampede start, Sophie found herself a little ahead of the plan when she glanced to her side and saw the likes of Emelia Gorecka and Jess Judd who would go on to take gold and silver respectively. Following an adjustment into a more sensible position Sophie sat in and held on to the pace.


However, the start had been fast – very fast and when the mud became a swamp it hit Sophie hard. The conditions were the worst seen at the event for some time and as Sophie lost ground to the more experienced pack, the deep mud along with the punchy start left Sophie in a race of survival losing around 10-15 places in the last 3km. Sophie battled on to the finish and came 40th overall. For some perspective, Olympian Laura Weightman came in 20th.

Although a “safer” run may have resulted in a higher placed finish, this was about putting it out there and seeing how Sophie measured up and she should be proud of her performance.

Sophie said that she loved mixing it with the likes of Jess Judd and the experience has made her even more motivated to keep progressing.

1 E Gorecka 27:59; 2 J Judd 28:06; 3 G Steel 28:16… 40 S Harris 30:00.  326 finished


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