With national titles and the honour of representing England at the qualifying event to race for Great Britain in the European Clubs’ Championship, competition was as tough as you’d expect at this classic opener to the cross country season.
As ever (since 1989 in fact), Mansfield hosted the English Cross Country Relays which saw a huge number of competitors – close to 6,000 – taking part in the packed programme that included every age group from under-13 to the seniors.
The top two teams in the men’s and women’s races had the additional bonus of being selected as England’s representatives in a qualifying race in Liverpool later this month, which as you’d expect produced two hugely exciting contests.
First up was the women and a victorious Charnwood who were understandably delighted with how things turned out. “You never know how it’s going to go beforehand,” said Hannah Nuttall (coach: John Nuttall, club: Charnwood) who ran 9:40 for her second leg, “but we knew we had a chance, so it was great to see Gemma Steele (Liz Nuttall, Charnwood) pull away on the last leg.”
“It’s really nice to run in a team event; it gets the winter going,” said Gemma.
Behind Charnwood were Lincoln Wellington who held off Aldershot Farnham and District in a close finish.
The men’s race was similar in that Aldershot were once again in the hunt for gold, but on this occasion had nothing to offer as early leaders Leeds City were anchored by 27:34 10,000m runner Emile Cairess.
By the top of the first hill, he had overhauled the leaders Aldershot Farnham and District and eventually ran out a comfortable winner.
But this event is as much about the age group championships as it is the senior event and rightly so as it produced an afternoon of amazing races. Take the U13 boys’ race for instance.
Wolverhampton and Bilston emerged triumphant, but it said so much more than that. Once a powerhouse club in the late 1970s, the coaching team in Wolverhampton have been working hard to produce a new crop of young athletes, who on this result are more than ready to take on that mantle of greatness for the club once again.
Coaching plays a massive role in this event – perfectly illustrated in the dominance of Cambridge and Coleridge in the U20 men’s race. “We owe it all to Mark Vile our coach,” said Alex Molloy (Mark Vile, Cambridge and Coleridge). “One million per cent,” he laughed, adding that it was finally “nice to break that curse” which has seen the club start as favourites for a few times in recent years but just miss out.
Also on top of the podium was Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow, who edged to victory by just one second in the U17 women’s race. “It’s a team effort,” beamed a very happy Rachel Clutterbuck (Shireen Higgins, WSE&H) afterwards.
“It was very close, and I didn’t want to look back as I knew she was chasing behind me.”
Wreake and Soar Valley finished second, while Rotherham Harriers picked up the bronze.