Eleven young athletes made the long journey north to Sefton Park,Liverpool to compete in the prestigious UK Cross Challenge. The North-West has had more than its fair share of rain within the last few weeks, which had left the course extremely muddy, meaning that times were 30/45 seconds down on last year when the going was a lot drier. This is a popular fixture for the elite athletes up and down the UK, with a large number of Scottish athletes stepping south of the border for the first time this season. Likewise, a number of Welsh athletes made the short journey to Merseyside. Our athletes must be praised for challenging against top athletes within their respective age groups, where the winners from Liverpool will quite likely be in contention for National XC titles in the New Year.
Abigail Reid was the runner-up in Liverpool (photo: Steve Cody)
In the Under 13 girls race over 3000 metres, we had two starters. Abigail Reid was hoping to add this title to others gained earlier this season, but was not aware that the winner from the first two cross challenges, Zoe Gilbody, was on the start line, as it appeared she had not been entered. On the early part of the course Gilbody and Abigail broke away from the rest of the field. As the runners swept round the top part of the course with around 500 metres remaining, Gilbody gradually got away, with our Abigail safe in second spot. At the finish Gilbody crossed the line in 11.06 with Abigail a clear 2nd in 11.19. Superb running in the mud. Abigail's performance would have placed her in the top 6 in the Under 15 girls race. Abigail now knows a similar performance next March at this venue in the English Schools could land her her first England vest. Molly Sherrin, who was 3rd two years ago in the Under 11 girls race, was always in the top 25, with most of those around her top years. Molly seems to run well in the mud and this again proved to be the case as she took three runners on the home straight to place 21st, an excellent run from over 150 starters, in 12.26.
Nate Harding has improved beyond all recognition this season, and the tenacious young runner had an outstanding run to place 31st in 12.00 for the 3k course. The winner, Aidan Collier from Chiltern, was only 80 seconds ahead. Aiden is the clear favourite for the Under 13 boys titles after Xmas. I am sure Nate will look towards securing an Essex Schools vest next February, which I am confident he can achieve. He is a very focused lad. Again there were over 150 starters.
In the Under 15 girls race, Miya Maeda toed the line. Miya, who last week pleased herself and her coaches with an excellent top ten finish in the London Youth Games, had another fine run in the mud in a very strong field to yield a position in the top third of the field. Miya stopped the clock in 12.29 for the 3k course.
L. to R.: U15s Danny, Evan, Liam and Sid (photo: Steve Cody)
In the Under 15 boys race, also over 3k, and again with over 150 starters, we had four Woodies starting. The winner, Lewis Sullivan, took the lead early on and clocked 9.50 for the mud-bound circuit to win easily. Our Southern 800m U15 boys champion, Danny Raymond, was our first athlete home, using this race to build strength for next summer's track season where the English Schools is his target. Danny was another to get in the top third of the field by claiming 39th in 10.48 and we saw his customary sprint kick at the end. Evan Johnson, who was recently called up to represent Hertfordshire next month, was 60th in 11.12. Evan is showing great discipline by getting some training at his home town in Bishops Stortford along with his main session in Harlow on a Wednesday evening. Sid Cody was next in 103rd in 11.50. Sid has been with the club since 2015 and over that time has shown steady improvement. This season Sid has had some excellent runs and continues to be a much valued member of our Under 15 squad. Liam Short was right behind Sid in 109th in 11.58. Liam is still very new to our sport but is already showing improvement and is a committed member of our team. All four boys gave their best against top opposition.
In the Under 17 men’s race over 5.5k we had two starters. Winner Louis Small led all the way to snap the tape in 18.26 and is another contender for titles next year. Joel Doye, who was unwell during the week and is still very new to our sport, had a great run for 51st, just 80 seconds behind Small. Joel will be back next year as he is still eligible for this grade of competition next season, when he will look for a top 15/20 placing. This season Joel has other aspirations, including to gain county vests at both club and schools level, and I can see him achieving this as he is very committed to his training. Sam Sloan also ran well for 70th in 20.10. Like Evan, Sam has been rightly selected to represent Hertfordshire next month.
Jess Adams started out in the Under 17 girls race and should feel happy with her time of 20.26 for the 4.5k mud-bound course to place 89th. Jess is a tremendous club athlete and was a regular at our YDLs and Southern League matches last summer. Jess is gradually increasing her training and nothing would please me more than to see her gain her first county colours next year.
So a good solid showing from our young athletes who never show fear towards top opponents. We are gradually making our mark at this event and it was great to hear the announcer state ”Woodford Green with Essex Ladies always have runners at this event despite travelling a long way to get to Liverpool”.