SAMOKOV, BULGARIA -- Iona College women's cross country junior Kate Avery earned the individual silver medal and helped lead Great Britain to a team gold at the 2014 SPAR European Cross Country Championship at Shiroka polyana in Borovets resort. Avery was edged by her teammate Gemma Steel in what was described by European Athletics as a thrilling, nail-biting finish with a sensational sprint over the final strides.
Both Steel and Avery finished with a recorded time of 28:27 over the 7,782-meter course. The British duo finished 25 seconds ahead of the third place performer, Sweden's Meraf Bahta. The two separated themselves just over halfway through the race. They traded leads through the final lap but in the in the end it was one final kick from Steel that propelled her to the win.
"Coming into the race I didn’t know what to expect but didn’t think I would come away with a medal," Avery told European-Athletics.org. "However, being so close I am disappointed because I had it, but Gemma managed to kick past me in the last few meters."
Great Britain won the event handily, topping Spain by 49 points with their team score of 21. Avery was the youngest competitor among the top 10 finishers.
The event concludes a banner calendar year for the Iona junior. Avery earned three NCAA All-America honors, first on the indoor track in March, followed by outdoor track in June and the cross country trails last month. She was the NCAA individual champion, the first female-student athlete in Iona history and first British female to win an NCAA Cross Country Championship. She made her debut for the senior Great Britain squad this summer at the Commonwealth Games and earned a fourth place finish in the 10,000-meter event.