On Friday 8th March three of our junior harriers made the journey South for the UK Inter Counties Cross CountryChampionships. Fergus Robinson, Max Pearson and Christopher Jackson travelled with the rest of the North Eastern Counties team for an overnight stay before moving on to Cofton Park, Birmingham on Saturday morning.
Unable to stay away I travelled with the team but was able to keep my distance and let them get on with it. I was a little concerned that the energetic and youthful enthusiasm that I witnessed on Friday’s journey had turned into “pin drop” peacefulness on the Saturday morning. Were they focussed or tired? I feared the latter!
The weather had threatened to be wet all day but luckily the forecasters got it wrong. The day remained rain free for the duration which was greatly appreciated. The hard wet winter had, however, taken its toll and the ground underfoot was very wet, muddy and heavy.
I was extremely impressed with the set up and the full television coverage by Sky Sports. This was a big occasion in the Cross Country calendar.
The first race of the day was the U20 mens, followed by the U13 Boys. Max and Christopher both seemed nervous. They lined up in their pen in single file(ish), waited for the TV adverts to finish, and then got set for the starter’s pistol. Photographic evidence shows that both boys got swallowed up in the crowds and struggled to get off to a good start. The race was fast over a short 3K distance. Max was unable to keep up with the lead pack of around 8 runners but settled into the second pack, chasing hard. When Max passed me and with around 600m to go he was in 16th place. At this point he made his move and the next time I caught sight of him he was in 10th place. With his customary growl he sprinted down the finishing straight picking off another 2 competitors to finish in 8th place.
The rest of the North Eastern Counties team followed him in. Christopher also finished strongly, finishing in 84th position in a field of 311! Their efforts were rewarded as the team finished in bronze medal position.
Several races later and with the ground conditions noticeably deteriorating it was time for the U15 boys. Fergus lined up in a field of 288 competitors. Carrying a niggling injury in his knee he found the going tough but still managed a highly commendable 131st place.
After a long day of watching Cross Country the North East spectators were rewarded with a superb performance by the Senior Men in the final race of the day. The men retained their team title for the third consecutive year. Definitely something for our young athletes to aspire to.