Athletics: Injury-hit Steel is chuffed with bronze at Nationals
Gemma Steel continued on her road to recovery by clinching bronze at the National Cross-Country Championships.
The defending champion completed the 8km race in 30min 40sec to finish third.
Her performance at the event at Herrington Park, Sunderland, also led Charnwood to the silver team medal, alongside team-mates Juliet Doyle, who finished seventh in 31.07, Victoria Callaway (53rd in 34.50) and Amber-Sian Magee (111th in 41.11).
It was only Steel's second outing since returning from the Achilles injury she picked up at the World Half-Marathon Championships in October, which has seen her sidelined since November.
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"I was just happy to make the top three," said Steel. "Anything else would have been a bonus."
Her first event back saw Steel claim first place in the Alsager 5-mile at the start of the month with a personal-best time of 26.36.
But her biggest disappointment was that she was unable to compete at the European Cross-Country Championships in December, where she had won bronze the previous year.
"It has always been an ambition of mine to win the Euros," said Steel.
"Having won bronze in 2011, I thought it could have been my year. But it wasn't to be."
The 27-year-old is now aiming to be back to her best for the defence of her Inter-Counties title on March 9.
It will be vital as the Great Britain team for the World Championships, on March 24 in Bydgoszcz, Poland, is based on it.
"If you get into the top three you are automatically selected, and I reckon I will be capable of making that," said Steel.
"I already have one foot there because of my performance at the weekend, as they take that into consideration, too."
Steel was not the only success at Herrington Park.
Charnwood's Lucy Jones added a National Championship gold medal to her collection as she continued her incredible start to 2013.
The impressive young runner romped home in 17.12 over the 4km distance to seize the U15 girls' title, as well as leading Charnwood to the gold team medal, with the assistance of Laura Mullin, who finished seventh in 17.50, Hannah Cox (29th in 18.44) and Elizabeth Mulvaney (32nd in 18.51).
Ben Dijkstra followed up his Midlands and Leicestershire schools title with second-place finish in the U15 boys race.
He clocked 15.14 over 4.5km to grasp the silver medal while leading Leicester Coritanian to the team bronze medal along with Alfie Thompson (12th in 15.43), Cameron Smith (46th in 16.46) and Luke Beeby (61st in 16.59).
There were a couple of bronzes in the U13 races as Charnwood's Jo Pollard (11.14) and Coritanian's Jordan Waine (11.33) both grabbed third in the boys and girls' 3km races respectively.
Coritanian also picked up a silver team medal in the U17 women's 5km event thanks to Mari Smith (fourth in 18.18), Amy Griffiths (fifth in 18.33), Caelidh Ross (32nd in 19.57) and Ella Shirley (42nd in 20.20).