Athletics: Steel's extra spur for Euros
Leicestershire's Gemma Steel admits she got a "wake-up call" after finishing runner-up in the McCain Liverpool Cross Challenge.
The 26-year-old from Whitwick clinched a place in next month's European Championships by finishing second, just four seconds behind Hallamshire Harriers' Hatti Dean, at Sefton Park.
The pre-race favourite after her recent triumphs, Steel was disappointed to miss out on another win but was pleased that she pushed Dean all the way in a sprint finish.
"I was hoping to win it this year," said Steel, from Charnwood AC. "I gave her a race right down to the long, downhill sprint finish.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
"There were only four seconds in it in the end. It was a hard, close race and we were neck and neck all the way.
"There was nothing between us and it gave me a good test, but it was a wake-up call for the European Championships.
"I have been winning all the time while she has been away in Kenya and now I am up against the top athletes in Britain. It shows where I'm at.
"She is Lottery-funded and really professional about her athletics. She was seventh in the Europeans last year, 21st in the World cross and fourth in the European steeplechase.
"I gave it my best all the way to the finish and I was pleased that I didn't give up.
"She said that was the hardest race she had ever had and she had never had a sprint finish like that in any race."
Steel has closed the gap on Dean, who finished second in the race last year, 14 seconds ahead of the Leicestershire runner.
And the race came after Dean had spent three weeks in Kenya training at high altitude. Steel opted out.
"I was supposed to be going but my coach said it was a risk because some people don't respond very well to it if they have not tried it before," said Steel.
By finishing in the top three, Steel has qualified for the European cross-country championships for the second successive year.
Last year she finished 27th in Portugal but is hoping to make the top 10 in Slovenia on Sunday, December 11 when she will again be up against Dean.
"I didn't have a great race last year," said Steel.
"In Portugal it was very hot, and I wasn't used to it. Top 10, or better, would be great."