LEIGH Harriers’ international star Lauren Howarth was the first European home in the World Cross Country Championships in Amman, Jordan, on Saturday.

The 18-year-old medical student was a member of the Great Britain and Northern Ireland women’s under 20s squad which came close to glory - but just missed out on a medal.

Led home by Lauren in 13th spot, GB and NI finished fourth in the team standings with 82 points, just six short of bronze medallists Japan.

Ethiopia took gold, led by individual gold medallist Genzebe Dibaba, and Kenya took silver.

Lauren, a student at Birmingham University, competed brilliantly in her first world event over a brutal 6km course at Bishart Golf Club.

The 100-plus top-class athletes faced hard-packed gravel and a tough 300m climb at the end but Lauren, who had a difficult three weeks preparation because of training problems, nevertheless ran a superbly judged race running on the back of the lead group for most of the run, and finished in 21mins 14secs.

Lauren has had an impressive pedigree over the last 12 months representing Great Britain.

She collected a bronze individual medal and team gold in the European Cross Country Championships in Brussels and competed in the 3,00m at the World Junior Track and Field Championships in Poland.

The club 3,000m and 5,000m record holder is also in the top national rankings for the events.

She said: “I was hoping for top 15 so I am really pleased.

“The race set off very slowly and then the runners started working hard on the second lap. I thought ‘I’ve got to go with them’ and I hung on for as long as I could. I’m really pleased with the result for my first World Cross. It was a really tough but really enjoyable experience. I’ve been improving a lot this year.”