English Cross Country Association National Championships
With big fields taking to the start line to charge up the famous start of the Parliament Hill course there was a tremendous atmosphere for ‘The National’. While Phoebe Low and Adam Hickey took the senior crowns, there were some hugely impressive displays across the other age groups as the younger athletes were clearly unintimidated by historically tough course.
Early on there were two City of Norwich athletes to the fore in the senior race as Iona Lake (Pauline Ash) and Sarah Astin (Mick Woods) were at the sharp end which also included Phoebe Law (Kingston & Poly, Mick Woods), Juliet Potter (Charnwood, Roy Stowell) and Georgia Malir (Leeds, Andrew Henderson).
In the two-lap race it was on the second lap that Phoebe hit the front but with the likes of Louise Small (Aldershot, Farnham & District, Mick Woods) and Georgia Taylor-Brown (Sale, Paul Roden) now also prominent and looking to shake up the positions the battle for the medals was now clearly into a decisive phase. With the crowds gathering in the last field to see who would emerge over the top of the hill first it was the Kingston & Poly athlete who had the lead - and it looked decisive. So it was, as she came away to win as Louise in turn looked to have made the silver medal certain. Iona continued her build up to competing in the steeplechase at the Commonwealth Games in early May by taking the bronze medal ahead of Georgia Taylor-Brown.
It was, however, the Sale athlete who led her team to the club title as their 76 points saw off the challenge of Cambridge and Coleridge who were led home by Charlotte Christensen in 11th place and closed in with 85 points. Leeds were bronze medallists with 91 having Claire Duck (Mike Baxter) as their first athlete home in15th.
The customary charge up the first hill saw the usual scenario of a few unexpected faces near the front and showing a defiance of the reputation of the Parliament Hill course. However, as proceedings settled down the news from the far side of the course was that it had become a more expected group of athletes that were now setting the running. The messages coming back included news of Tom Austin (Poole, Mick Woods), Adam Hickey (Southend, Eamonn Martin), Peter Huck (Barrow & Furness) and John Gilbert (Kent) to the fore early on.
As the second of the three laps got underway the group was whittling down more and the battle for the medals was looking clearer with John Gilbert, Adam Hickey and Andy Maud (Highgate) becoming the names now being radioed back as they passed successive marshalling points. On the final lap it was Adam Hickey who was leading proceedings and on his way to a first senior ‘National’ title. Andy Maud has an impressive record on this course, as you might expect for a Highgate Harrier, and it was the athlete on his home course who moved into the silver medal position as John Gilbert gave a characteristically battling performance for the bronze medal ahead of Peter Huck.
Tonbridge retained the team title with a clear winning margin as the closed in with 131 points, led in by fifth placed Chris Olley (Mark Hookway).
Under 20 women
This race saw a hugely impressive display from Harriet Knowles-Jones (Warrington, Paul Roden) as, after early running with Niamh Brown (Mick Woods), she pushed on and pulled more than a minute clear of the silver medal winning Aldershot, Farnham and District athlete. While the calibre of Harriet’s run meant the result in terms of the gold was never in doubt there was still a fight going on for the other medals.
Scarlet Dale (Lancaster & Morecambe, Colin Gemson) who was transferring her pedigree in mountain running to cross country ran third for much of the race and was still just five seconds back from Niamh when she crossed the line.
It was a strong performance from Sale to win the team title with 31 points as Francesca Brint (Paul Roden) was their first athlete home in fourth with their third scorer, Claudia Cowan (Paul Roden), home in16th. Aldershot, Farnham & District took silver with 59 and Blackheath and Bromley the bronze were just a point back for bronze.
Under 20 Men
It was a similar story in the Under 20 men’s race. This time it was Mahamed Mahamed (Southampton, Peter Hayne) and Emelie Cairess (Leeds, Phil Townsend) who were at the front end but before too long a gap was starting to appear between the two.
It was soon a commanding lead from the Hampshire athlete who by the end was a dominant 57 seconds clear of the Leeds runner who in turn had a sizable 31 second margin to the bronze medal winning Tom Mortimer (Stroud & District, Christopher Brown) who held off John Millar of Ipswich as big gaps were appearing at the front end.
Milton Keynes Distance Project were club winners by just two points as they closed in with 106, led in by Alex Gruen, and City of York came home third with 108 having taken fifth and sixth places with Angus McMillan (Ian Wilcock) and Josh Schofield (Andy Henderson).
Under 17 Women
Last year Ella McNiven (Liverpool Harriers, Lynn Webb) took bronze in this race. This year she went to the front early on - and such has been the progress she has made over the past year it was no surprise that she was soon taking control of the race. She was being chased by Grace Brock (John Knowles) of Cornwall AC and it was the South West athlete who would take the silver 10 seconds back on Ella’s championship winning run. In the second half of the race Almi Nerurkar (Brighton Phoenix) moved through and came home to take the bronze medal.
Ella came away with two gold medals having also led her team to the club title. Havering AC were silver medallists with Guildford and Godalming winning bronze.
Under 17 Men
Early on the athletes up at the sharp end included Rory Leonard of Morpeth and Alex Ediker of Chesterfield, with Thomas Keen (Cambridge & Coleridge, Mark Vile) and Zak Mahamed (Southampton, Peter Haynes) also up there. As the race went on it was Thomas, Lachlan Wellington (City of Portsmouth, Vince Stamp) and the less well-known name of David Stone (Shaftesbury Barnet, Jeremy Sothcott) who were making the running.
As the athletes turned into the final straight it was clear that the Shaftesbury athlete would be the one to watch and while Lachlan chased hard all the way through to the line he was not going to get back on terms seeing the Southern Championships fifth placer taking the title with Thomas Keen third.
The Cambridge & Coleridge athlete did return home with a gold medal as he led his club to the title with Invicta East Kent taking second just three points ahead of Aldershot, Farnham & District.
Under 15 Girls
Sian Heslop (Macclesfield, Alison Hartopp) and Lara Crawford (Sale, Richard Goddard) replicated the one-two from the Northern Championships at the front of the National Championships as Abigail Durand (North Norfolk Harriers, Tim Ash) completed the medallists.
City of Norwich took the club title with a clear margin from Chiltern Harriers and Blackheath & Bromley completed the club medals.
Under 15 Boys
Early on the pace was being carved out by a group headed by Archie Lowe (Middlesbrough, Martin Peevor), Ethan Hussey (Leeds, Andrew Henderson) and Henry Johnson (Houghton, Lynn Cooper). But when Mohamed Ali (Ealing, Southall & Middlesex, Steve Mann) moved to the front it was then that the real shake up came. By the end, the Southern Champion was clear of Will Barnicoat (Aldershot, Farnham & District, Trevor Raggett) and Northern Champion Archie Lowe completed the medals.
Aldershot, Farnham & District won the club title with a strong 61 points as Taunton took second with 158 and South London Harriers were just five points back in third place.
Under 13 Girls
This race gave the most thrilling finale of the day. Maisy Luke (Cornwall AC, Chris Jeffery) came down the home straight but the drama was unfolding behind her. Early on Beth Rawlinson (Wenlock) and Lottie Dewar (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow, Shireen Higgins) had been in medal positions but as the race went on Olivia Breed (Tonbridge) seemed to be getting closer and closer to the placings. The finish saw her in a tremendous tussle with the Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow athlete and as the two charged across the line together it was not clear to many onlookers who had won. The officials soon had their verdict though with the two given the same time but Olivia taking the silver and Lottie the bronze.
Chiltern Harriers were club winners from Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow and Blackheath & Bromley.
Under 13 Boys
There was a win for William Rabjohns (Poole AC, Mark Pauley) as Zena Saez (Bedford & County) and Christopher Perkins (Birtley, Gary Curtis) completed the medallist, with the one-two being a repeat of the Southern positions.
Chiltern Harriers were team winners from Aldershot, Farnham & District and Sale.
The start of the national cross country races are always a great sight, here's the action as the Senior Men's race got underway (and you can see more on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/englandathletics):