With many schools still on holidays it was a small squad of five junior athletes from Woodford Green with Essex Ladies that made the trip to Gloucester Park, Basildon for the Essex Cross Country Championships. It was a cold dry day. Course maps told us the course planner had made good use of the large hill feature in the park, creating a course with three steep ascents and corresponding descents. It would be challenging as befits a county championship course.
The under 17 race was first. WGEL had just one representative in the women's race, Jessica Adams who was running in her first county championship as a bottom year. Jessica rose to the challenge superbly finishing 15th in just under 23 minutes on a tough 5k course highlighting the rapid improvement she has made this season.
In the men's race Joel Doye, also a bottom year under 17 who has just started training with the club this season, stormed home in second place chasing hard on the heels of Ilford AC's England Schools International Aaron Samuel. Next for WGEL was Kieran Allgood in a very decisive sixth place, well clear of the next runner. Both Joel and Kieran secured automatic selection to represent Essex in the Inter Counties in March. Third WGEL man was Rhys Edwards, running strongly all the way to the line to secure 12th place. With three runners home in twelve a fourth runner would have guaranteed team medals on the day.
Next race was the under 20s with just one representative, Thomas Adolphus, but what a race Thomas had. Barely 18 and in his first year as an under 20 Thomas ran a strong controlled race, moving well through the field to secure an excellent 6th place and automatic selection for Essex in the Inter Counties in March.
Those of us who stayed on enjoyed two high quality senior races. Jess Judd, GB International, led home a strong women's field. Alicia McArdell, who has been coached by John Stow since she was under 13 ran a very strong race to finish 16th in just her second year as a senior athlete. Team mate Rachel Lund ,who has been travelling round the world until very recently, finished in an impressive 25th, all the more so given that, by her own admission, she is not at full fitness.
As already reported, Adam Hickey another GB International, led home the men's race in which the WGEL men's team took silver.
Thank you to all the athletes and their parents for travelling to Basildon to represent Woodford Green with Essex Ladies in some style. Maybe a few more will join us next year. And thank you also to the marshalls, planners, officials (including WGELs Graham Pribul) and others who helped deliver a superbly organised and very enjoyable morning of racing.