Lily Hill Park in Bracknell was the venue for the 21st running of the Bracknell Schools Invitation Cross Country Relays. The event was devised by former All England Cross Country Champion Julian Goater and is organised in conjunction with Bracknell Forest Council’s Young People in Sport Scheme.
There are 4 races which were all about team running as the athletes took on the woodland and meadow course in a relay format. This year the event was made possible through financial support from England Athletics.
Arctic weather at the end of February caused the postponement of the event, but conditions on the day were just about perfect with pleasant weather and a course that was a bit wet in places. Success in the races would be as much about smart running as it was about fast running.
Despite the really challenging conditions there were some terrific performances, with over 450 children completing their respective courses. A number of shoes came off around the course as several runners crossed the line in just their socks. It’s all part of the fun!
The Senior Girls’ teams were the first to take on the challenging course and it was soon clear that it was more than advisable to tie shoelaces very securely.
Charters A led the early part of the Senior Girls’ race opening a lead from their B team. Gordons were never far behind and had moved into the lead at the end of the second leg, followed by Collingwood with Charters A in third place. The leading positions stayed that way through to the final changeover.
However the mile long course gave all the teams the opportunity to close gaps, which Charters A did in some style. Nearly a minute behind at the final changeover they ate up the ground to win by 24 seconds from Gordons with Collingwood a further thirty seconds back in third place.
Collingwood made the early running in the Senior Boys’ race, but the teams were much closer with Tomlinscote A and Dr Challoners A just a few seconds behind.
Dr Challoners have a fantastic record at this event and things looked ominous for the remaining teams as they led through the middle part of the race.
However this year they could not break away as Tomlinscote A tracked them down. In a terrific finale to the race Tomlinscote took the lead in sight of the finish line to win by just 2 seconds from Dr Challoners A, with Dr Challoners B moving through into third after a really strong second half of the race.
The course for the Junior races was shorter than the Seniors, avoiding the worst of the boggy areas. There were still a couple of really slippery areas that could have caused issues, but despite the reduction in length the course was still really challenging for the younger runners.
The Junior Girls went first with 26 teams taking to the course. The early part of the race was led by Hawley Place, but only 30 seconds covered the top ten teams. Crawley Ridge A and Cleves A enjoyed a great battle throughout the race with the lead changing hands a number of times. Hawley Place remained in contention as did St Charles Borromeo who gradually improved after a steady start.
As the race entered it’s second half it was Crawley Ridge A that led from Cleves A. The positions remained the same as Crawley Ridge gradually increased their lead but Cleves kept themselves well ahead of the challengers.
St Charles Borromeo enjoyed a terrific second half to the race moving into the medal positions by the final handover. Crawley Ridge were never threatened on the final leg winning by exactly a minute from Cleves. St Charles Borromeo held off a determined challenge from Hawley Place to take third place. Ascot Heath were the best of the Bracknell Schools finishing 5th followed by Wooden Hill in 6th.
The final race involved the Junior Boys. Hawley Place were back to defend their title and a twenty second lead at the first handover suggested they were the team to beat. Cleves A and both Crawley Ridge teams led the challengers and by the end of the second leg Cleves had taken the lead as less than twenty seconds covered the potential medallists. Cleves looked really strong and successive runners gradually built their lead.
However Crawley Ridge were also looking really strong and at the final handover had reduced the deficit to just 2 seconds. In an absolutely thrilling final leg Cleves and Crawley Ridge battled for the lead with cleves just about hanging on. Hawley Place were not going to give up their title easily.
As the leaders entered the final stretch Cleves had held off the Crawley Ridge challenge to win a brilliant race, but in their effort to take the lead Crawley Ridge were pipped for second place by a resurgent Hawley Place. The best of the local schools was New Scotland Hill A, who finished 7th with Wooden Hill 8th.