English Schools' Cross Country Champs conditions tricky and testing

Despite a Saturday that was set to be full of wind, rain and snow, just over 2,000 athletes turned up to the grounds of Temple Newsam, on the outskirts of Leeds, for the English Schools' Cross Country Championship 2018. In total there were 6 races, across tricky, muddy terrain, up and down hills. These testing conditions required perfect timing and judgement to be successful!

The first race of the day was the Intermediate Girls, which involved a short and long lap of the course. At the end of a fast first lap Olivia Mason (Border AC, Graeme Mason, Cumbria) was leading the front runners. As the race progressed over the second lap, Ella McNiven (Liverpool Harriers, Lynn Webb, Merseyside) slowly broke away from the group and remained in front, winning the race with a 14 second lead over her fellow competitors. Keely Hodgkinson (Leigh, Margaret Galvin, Greater Manchester) was the next athlete to successfully complete the course with Olivia finishing in third place hot on her heels. The overall team result was first place to Surrey (321 points), second to London (339 points) and third to Sussex (363 points).

As the second race got under way for the Junior Boys, the wind started to pick up - blowing in the snow clouds. At the half way point, the leading pack was led by Kyle Rabjohn (Richmond & Zetland, North Yorkshire) with his team mate Sam Smith (Wharfedale / Bingley, North Yorkshire) close behind. When they came around again at the end of the second lap to finish the race, Woody Jerome (Aldershot, Farnham & District, Mick Woods, Surrey) finished in first place, with Tom Heal (Taunton, Ricahrd Caburn, Somerset) and William Ashfield (Vale Royal, Andrew Carter, Cheshire) closely behind in second and third place. The overall team result was first place to Surrey (76 points, the lowest team score of the afternoon!) Second place went to Suffolk (204 points) and third to North Yorkshire (314 points).

The next race to head off was the Junior Girls' race, which was two full laps of the short course.

At the half way point of the race the leader was Bea Wood (City of Salisbury, Wiltshire), with Bethany Cook (Bodyworks, Sussex) and Emily Shaw (Wimborne AC, Dorset) following closely behind. These two controlled the second half of the race with Bea finishing in a comfortable first place, with Bethany and Faye O’Hare (Liverpool Harriers, Merseyside) finishing third. Emily Shaw (Wimborne AC, Dorset) ran a strong race and missed out on a medal by only 2 seconds. The overall team result was first place to Essex (200 points), second to London (271 points) and third to Dorset (288 points).

After a short snow storm, it was the turn of the Intermediate Boys to race around the now very muddy course. This race would be the closest race of the day, with the top 5 all finishing within 13 seconds of each other. The winner was Henry McLuckie (Isle of Wight, Paul Simpson, Hampshire and Vectis), who had led the race for most of the way. The next 3 finishers were split by 3 seconds, Mathew Stonier (Invicta East Kent, Peter Mullervy,- Kent) clinched second place. Third place went to David Stone (Shaftesbury Barnet, Jeremy Sothcott, Middlesex) and Joshua Dickinson (City of York, Ian Wilcock, South Yorkshire) finished in fourth place. The overall team result was first place to Kent (147 points), second to Surrey (208 points) and third to Lancashire (244 points).

The penultimate race of the afternoon was the Senior Girls' race and the snow showers had returned. At the start of the second lap there was a leading pack of about 10 girls. Holly Page (Dartford Harriers, Jason Marchant, Kent) ran an impressive final lap to build a ten second lead to win. Kirsty Walker (Reading AC, Rob McKim, Berkshire) and Saskia Millard (Herne Hill Harriers, James McDonald, London) finished second and third with Izzy Fry (Newbury, Andy Tuttle, Berkshire) finishing just a second behind them. The overall team result was first place to Essex (189 points), second to South Yorkshire (260 points) and third to Hampshire and Vectis (271 points).

With a break in the weather it was the turn of the Senior Boys to start the final race of the afternoon. Their course was the longest, with a total of 3 laps. There was a leading group of about 10 athletes as they passed the start finish area for the final lap. This led to a fast final lap, where Matthew Wills (Wrexham AC, Cheshire) managed to build up a 20 second lead over his rivals to win the final race. Second place was taken by Thomas Keen (Cambridge & Coleridge, Cambridgeshire) pictured top and a second behind him followed Angus McMillan (City of York, Ian Wilcock, North Yorkshire). Matthew Wills has previously won the ESAA Championship at Junior and Intermediate age groups in 2014 and 2016, which means he has now achieved the hat-trick of 3 first places! The overall team result for that race was first place to North Yorkshire (172 points), second to Hampshire and Vectis (306 points) and third to Sussex (311 points).

Next year’s cross country will be staged at Chelmsford on Saturday 16th March 2019. Save the date and get training!

Report and photos by Liam Hunt