South of England CC 2009: Young Athletes

Saturday’s South of England Cross Country Championships at Uxbridge brought some fine results for our small band of young athletes. The course is known for being wet and, unfortunately, it lived up to its reputation. The combination of the recent rain and construction traffic laying a new gas main across the site ensured that the course quickly became a mud-bath; in places, deep puddles and elsewhere, cloying, sticky mud that made for very heavy going over almost the entire course.

Pride of place went to Ronnie Sparke’s well executed victory in the U20 Men’s event, in the process reversing his defeat by Southend’s Ben Hunter in the Essex Championships two weeks ago. Ronnie, last year’s U17 Men’s Southern champion, was quickly at the head of proceedings as he tucked into a group of eight runners who made an early break from the main field. By the half way stage, he was neatly tucked in behind Ben Hunter letting him do the work whilst they had a gap of 15 metres over the chasers. Their positions changed out on the highest part of the course and, as they re-emerged into the finishing field, Ronnie’s lead had stretched to about 40 metres. Although Hunter made a small dent in this by the finishing straight, Ronnie was never in any danger of being caught and for the second year in a row, could cross the line as South of England champion. Ronnie’s recent reward of an England vest for a race in Italy next week seems amply justified as did his smile afterwards in the medal tent. 

The U20 Men’s team harboured a realistic hope of winning a team medal but were pushed back into 5th place, 20 points adrift of Shaftesbury who were 3rd. Nevertheless, Gavin Lewis (32nd) and Angus Holford (37th) were reasonably satisfied with their runs, Gavin holding a constant place throughout whilst Angus gradually worked his way up the field to finish only 6 seconds down on Gavin. Craig Berg, who completed the scoring team was up with Gavin in the early stages but paid for his early efforts in the mud and ended the race back in 59th.

The event also doubled as the club championships so there were still medals to be won for runners who could not expect Southern’s silverware. Robbie Meadows continued his recent run of impressive results and finished 18th in the U17 Men’s event. In this race, Alex Cornwell was well placed in 8th at the half way stage with Robbie back in the twenties and as Alex gradually lost places over the last lap, Robbie worked his way past and up into the teens, picking off a couple of runners within the last 150m.  Dan Yaxley, out of sorts lately with illness and a knee injury, soldiered round for 177th but with Karim Ali’s late withdrawal on the line, picked up a club bronze for his troubles.

Georgie-Lou Sales’ 16th place in the U20 Women’s event was a solid performance and for the team, part of another tale of what might have been. With only two clubs managing to close scoring teams of four, there was a team bronze medal there for the taking if only we had been able to field that elusive fourth runner. Jessica Docking (39th) and Amelia Holford (51st) did their part and will remain in the age group for next year but who will accompany them in 2010? Aldershot’s Stephanie Twell was a comfortable winner of this race, nearly one and half minutes ahead of her closest rival.

Claudia Conway (55th) was our first finisher for the U17 Women (who raced with the U20W) with Becky Hewitt not far behind in 63rd and Kate Stockings back in 84th but with Sidnie Sales dropping out feeling heavy legged, we were unable to close a team.

We did manage to field teams in the U15 Boys and Girls races. The boys were first off in the morning and despite being first round the course still came back spattered head to toe in mud. Liam Blaikie coped well with the quagmire for 41st in the largest young athlete field of the day (252 finishers); Chris Sear continued his excellent progress since signing up in November by following Liam home nine places back and only 11 seconds adrift. James Stockings (68th) and Lorcan Murphy (103rd) completed the scoring to bring the quartet home in 10th place out of the 39 finishing teams. The Girls didn’t fare so well (25th out of 30) but competed gamely in another big field (220) with Georgina Ferrari (119th), Sophie Fuhr (129th), Amy Doyle (134th) and Holly Bedeau (170th) making up the scorers.

We had two representatives in the U13 Girls, Ellie Foster with a quietly competent run in her first major championships in 67th (but only a minute and a half down on the winner) and Stephanie Smith (153rd) who didn’t seem fazed by the mud and in addition to picking up a club silver for the second year running also came away proudly clutching Stephanie Twell’s autograph. In the U13 Boys race, we had one runner, Harry Docking (236th) who surprisingly volunteered to run the night before and won himself a club gold in the process thus proving that “you have to be in it to win it”. 

The winners of the club championship medals will have them awarded at the Young Athlete presentation evening on Tuesday 3rd February.  They are:


Gold medal

Silver medal

Bronze medal

U13 Girls

Ellie Foster

Stephanie Smith


U13 Boys

Harry Docking



U15 Girls

Georgina Ferrari

Sophie Fuhr

Amy Doyle

U15 Boys

Liam Blaikie

Chris Sear

James Stockings

U17 Women

Claudia Conway

Becky Hewitt

Kate Stockings

U17 Men

Robbie Meadows

Alex Cornwell

Dan Yaxley

U20 Women

Georgie-Lou Sales

Jessica Docking

Amelia Holford

U20 Men

Ronnie Sparke

Gavin Lewis

Angus Holford