British Athletics Cross Challenge 2019: U11s

Our squad of young athletes took on one of the most prestigious races on the cross country calendar this weekend in damp, muddy conditions at Sefton Park, Liverpool. At a senior level this race incorporates team GB European Cross Country trials with the elite runners all battling for a place at the European Cross Country champs in Lisbon on 8th December 2019.

The course is designed to mirror the sort of challenges the elite athletes will face in Lisbon. However, this posed no fears for our young athletes with the whole squad putting their hard work from training and experience from racing in the Met League to full use!

Cross Challenge 2019 U11sTeam Manager Joe Everitt with his squad (photos by Paul Franklin)

U11s Boys Race
4 WGEL Athletes/ 133 Runners

Results: WGEL: Oliver Brown 32nd (07:43); Sebastian Reid 33rd (07:46), Daniel Arnold 34th (07:46) & Ethan Day 70th (08:19).

The Liverpool and Wirral Schools Cross Country qualifiers helped boost the numbers on the line in the U11s race with a tremendous 133 runners taking part. The course was 2k and featured plenty of heavy sticky mud, but also some faster downhill grass sections to offer a real spectacle for race goers and athletes.

Charlie Collins (6:53) of Liverpool Schools was the eventual race winner. Charlie ran a superb 400m downhill to the last turn and powered home over the long 200m uphill section into the finishing tunnel. His time to provide context was the equivalent of 5:30min mile pace. He put 6 seconds between himself and 2nd placed Fred Jones (6:59) of Wolverhampton and 14 seconds on William Coles (7:07) of Carmarthen and District.

Cross Challenge 2019 U11 Boys
As these boys crossed the line our athletes were working their way beautifully through the pack. After a good start, they all began taking places as the race progressed. Coming out of the wooded section into the final 600m Oliver Brown was leading our first trio home in fine fashion. Right behind him was Sebastian Reid and Daniel Arnold. These three packed superbly, holding off a number of challenges from other athletes who were now streaming through the finish line. Oliver crossed the finish line, as the first home for WGEL in a spectacular 32nd place (07:43). It was a great gutsy run from Oliver who at times was gliding over the mud! Sebastian and Daniel Arnold were our next two over the line. They finished neck and neck in 33rd and 34th (07:46). What a storming finish from these two! As young athletes they are progressing and getting stronger all the time and although there were no team awards at this individual event, to have three boys home in and around the top 30 of a national race was a tremendous achievement. Daniel even managed to finish the race having lost 5 spikes from his new shoes out in the course!

We did not have to wait long for our fourth athlete, Ethan Day, to cross the finish line. Ethan, finished 70th, but was less than 30s behind his team mates. He looked fantastic coming into the final 200m. Holding his form and sprinting past opponents. He was determined to show his team mates how much every place counted! Ethan has improved a huge amount and is core to this team's efforts (as is his dog Bruno, the team mascot!!). It was a tremendous effort from all the boys. It’s sometimes hard for young athletes to appreciate “only finishing” 32nd but to provide context every single one of our boys improved on their average times over arguably easier 2k junior Park runs and, more than that, they all had the confidence and belief to stand on the start line and compete with some of the country’s best cross country runners.

A special mention also goes to Leo Everitt. Leo is a huge part of the U11 team but by virtue of being a “November” baby was bumped up into the highly competitive U13s race. He was nervous on the start line but held his composure, cheered on by the entire U11s squad. He finished the 3k race in 14:20 (113th). It was a great run and his face, covered in mud was full of smiles at the end as he realised, as did his team mates, that he’d overcome a big challenge today and learnt a tremendous amount about himself and set a great example to his team mates, many of whom will be in that same race next year. The squad has a real can-do attitude. Well done boys!

Girls U11s Race

2 WGEL athletes / 112 runners

Detailed Results: Autumn Le Chevalier-Jones 7th (07:54) & Caitlin Hancock 30th (08:33).

The girls race was also heavily populated by the regional Liverpool Schools qualifiers and an impressive 112 runners lined up ahead of the 2k race.

The winner, and leader of the cross challenge series, was the very impressive Molly Carvell of Wirral Schools in 07:30. Molly won this same race last year and powered home again to take first place, finishing 10 seconds ahead of Valerie Teare (7:40) of Liverpool Schools, who improved from her 17th place finish last year. Third place was Lexi Lewis (07:46), also from Wirral Schools.

Cross Challenge 2019 U11 Girls

Our first athlete home was Autumn Le-Chevalier-Jones. Autumn set out hard, as instructed, using the downhill start to get amongst the leaders. She never looked back! Autumn remained among the top 10 for the entire race, holding her position into the final 200m with that customary WGEL sprint finish to take 7th place (07:54). This was a tremendous result. Autumn loves her running, is incredibly composed, and knows how to take on a challenge! Huge credit must go to the WGEL coaching team in Harlow of Libby Kodak and Carinne Jay. They are clearly installing good habits with Autumn, who is progressing well and always competes fearlessly with a smile! Autumn, as a lower age group runner, could be back next year in this race - the competition had better watch out!

Second home for WGEL, and only 40s behind Autumn, was our racing rocket Caitlin Hancock. Despite some pre-race nerves, Caitlin was ready to go come start time. Caitlin was amongst the top 10 for the early part of the race and even led at one stage as she tore up the starting downhill section with her impressive sprinting! Caitlin finished in a fantastic 30th position (08:33). This was a tremendous result and testimony to Caitlin and her determination. She continues to impress with her ability and a can-do attitude, and is slowly building an engine that will carry those very speedy legs to even faster times over these longer races!

A special mention also to Faye Owers. This is Faye’s first year as an athlete at WGEL. Faye started the race but was forced to withdraw after the first 1k after being sick. Faye has a fantastic attitude. She loves her running and is a core member of the squad. Learning from experiences like today is what will make her stronger in the future. We will work on her pre-race nerves and preparations to get over these challenges. She is a wonderful runner. As we build her experience and teach her to take confidence from her training I’m in no doubt that she will come back to national standard races like Liverpool and knock it out of the park in the future. The coaching team have no doubts about this and the squad is right behind her!