The ESAA cross country event once again produced a great set of races as it came to Witton Park, Blackburn.
In a course that took in the hill of ‘The Saucer’ and a course that saw some muddy terrain as well as flatter ground in the start and finish field there was a day of testing races for each county’s top young athletes.
The tough terrain saw some bold front runners making an impact on the races as the course provided a stern test of fitness.
One of those to make a strong display of controlling the race from the front was Abbie Donnelly (Lincs, Club: Lincoln Wellington, Coach: Rob Lewis) in the Senior Girls’ race. Always at the front from the early stages she ensured the pace was always high and pushed on to break clear of the chasers which included Gemma Holloway (Essex, Club: Thurrock), Olivia Gwynn (Somerset, Club: Swansea, Coach: Kevin Tobin), Daisy D’Santos (Hamps & Vectis, Club: Aldershot, Farnham & District, Coach: Mick Woods), Poppy Tank (Devon, Club: City of Plymouth, Coach: Simon Anderson) and Katie Astin (Mersey, Club: Manx).
As the second lap was covered the gaps opened out and it was Abbie who was pulling clear off the front of the race and Gemma who made the silver medal look increasingly certain. Meanwhile Daisy was improving position into third place to secure the third of the medals.
In the team competition it was a win for Essex ahead of second placed Surrey and third place taken by Hampshire and Vectis.
Mahamed Mohamed (Hamps & Vectis, Club: Southampton, Coach: Peter Haynes) added the Senior Boys’ title to the UK CAU Inter Counties and ECCA National Title he has already won this year. After William Richardson (Here & Worcs) took on the early running and pulled clear with Mahammed the Hampshire athlete then moved to the front and pushed on.
William then formed part of a chasing pack which also included Daniel Hamyes (Derbys, Club: Derby), Gus Cockle (Surrey, Club: Aldershot Farnham & District, Coach: Mick Woods), and Oliver Fox (Somerset, Club: Wells City, Coach: Richard Llewellyn Eaton). Behind these Sam Dickinson (N Yorks) and Emilie Cairess (S Yorks, Club: Bingley) were looking to get back in contact.
Mohammed was well clear and opening out a big lead in what was a dominant display. It was Oliver who was able to produce the best response and move clear of the rest while Sam came through to overhaul the pack that had been ahead of him to move into the bronze medal position.
The team title was won by Kent with Hampshire & Vectis taking second and third going to Surrey.
While Ben Dijkstra (Leicestershire, Club: Leicester) was not one of those forcing the pace early on in the Inter Boys race it was him who made the decisive move. As soon as he moved to the front on The Saucer for first time the race for the medals was clearly on. Ben opened up a lead as the pack, that splintered the pack that had included Archie Rayner (Notts, Club: Mansfield, Coach: Richard Massey), Stanley Willis (Shrops, Club: Bedford & County, Coach: Simon Goodwin), Tom Mortimer (Glocs, Club: Stroud, Coach: Christopher Brown), Alasdair Kinloch (Kent, Club: Tonbridge) Jacob Cvetkovic (Hamps & Vectis, Club: Aldershot, Farnham and District, Coach: Mick Woods) and Jamie Goodge (Kent, Club: Tonbridge).
The best able to respond to the injection of pace was Alasdair Kinloch with early leader Tom Mortimer still showing plenty of fight. It was those three who took the medals as the gaps opened out on the second lap.
Team winners were Leicestershire & Rutland with silver medals won by Kent and bronze taken by Hampshire & Vectis.
Sabrina Sinha (Kent, Club: Cambridge Harriers, Coach: Mark Newell / Peter Mullervy) who earlier in the winter won the UK CAU title was always to the front and forcing the pace in the Inter Girls’ race. Niamh Brown (Surrey, Club: Aldershot, Farnham & District, Coach: Mick Woods) judged her run well and moved through into second place as the race hit the more advanced stages with Holly Page (Kent) another to gauge her efforts well on the demanding course to take bronze.
It was no surprise that Kent won the team title with an impressive 53 points. Their six scorers were all inside the top 20 with their fifth finisher in just 23rd place. Berkshire took silver and Hampshire & Vectis bronze.
Zak Mahammed (Hamps & Vectis, Club: Southampton AC, Coach: Peter Haynes) and Josh Cowperthwaite (Cleveland, Club: Middlesbrough Mandale, Coach: Martin Peevor) moved to the front early in the Junior Boys race. As they headed out on to ‘The Saucer’ the duo opened up 20m of daylight on the chasing pack. Lachlan Wellington (Hamps & Vectis, Club: City of Portsmouth, Coach: Vince Stamp) was taking up the chase and his work saw him moving clear of the other pursuers as Mahammed opened up what proved to be a winning lead from Josh at the very front to add to his UK CAU title.
This time the team title was taken by Berkshire with Hampshire and Vectis’ two medallists helping them to the silver medals and bronze going to Sussex.
ECCA National Cross Country Champion Kathleen Faes (Kent, Club: Tonbridge) was always to the fore in a lead pack of the Junior Girls race that included Josie Czura (Hamps & Vectis, Club: City of Portsmouth), Libby Coleman (Notts, Club: Sutton-in-Ashfield, Coach: Harold Billings), Olivia Mason (Cumbria, Club: Border AC, Coach: Graeme Mason) and Tilly Simpson (Derbys, Club: Hallamshire H, Coach: Steven Marshall).It was Kathleen who opened out a winning lead from Josie as Leicestershire’s Hannah Seager (Club: Charnwood) came right through with an impressive run to bridge what had earlier looked like a decisive 30m gap to the medal positions and charge through the field to take bronze.
The team gold, silver and bronze medals were won by Surrey, Merseyside and Kent respectively.
Photography (copyright) Gary Mitchell