Yorkshire Cross Country Championships, Juniors and Seniors

 

Back to Wakefield’s Thornes Park for the Yorkshire Cross-Country Championships with the blue and yellow vests out in force on a fine, firm but windy day. There was no team but a couple of good performances in the junior men’s race, with Elliot Todd continuing his fine pre-Christmas form in 5th, which should be enough for a Yorkshire call-up, whilst Rob Torch ran strongly to finish 9th.

The senior women were far from full-strength, which makes you wonder what they could achieve when injuries are resolved and everyone is available. Claire Duck has been leading the Leeds charge in the West Yorkshire League but here found herself in a battle with a resurgent Emily Birchall, showing she is over her knee injuries and getting back to her best.  Claire found something extra on the final lap, however, pulling away to finish 14 seconds ahead of Emily and gaining a couple of extra places to finish 6th, earning a county call-up. Emily, in 9th, was named as 1st reserve, and has a very good chance of getting a run at the Inter-Counties.

 

Not far behind, Karen Hallas looked strong, finishing 15th, whilst 2 more athletes returning to form, Jennie Guard and Jess Nixon, were separated by just 5 seconds in 23rd and 24th, with Jennie carving through the field to take the final spot in the A team. This meant they finished a fine 3rd, behind a strong Rotherham squad and a Bingley team containing the gold and silver medallists.

 

Rachel Dyson fought off a cold to finish 30th whilst Sian Davies was 48th and Sarah Whitley 68th, enabling the women to finish a B team which finished 10th, 2nd B team and ahead of many clubs’ A teams.

 

Whilst the senior men have picked up Northern and National medals in the last couple of years, the Yorkshire title has proved a little more elusive, with a strong Hallamshire squad taking the title in the previous 2 races. Once again, the red vests were out in force and a close battle seemed on the cards from the first lap. Leeds this year were aided by the conversion of Alan Buckley to ‘proper Yorkshireman’ status (previously he’s competed in his home Nottinghamshire champs). He duly set about carving his way through a strong field as Bingley’s Brownlee brothers produced a model display of cross-country running at the front, finishing strongly in 5th. We were further aided by James Smith’s conversion to ‘proper cross-country runner’ status (not to mention his massive 18mm spikes!); despite setting alarm bells ringing with his customary fast start, he showed real grit to finish 7th, earning his first county cross-country vest.

 

Martin Gostling has been injured for large chunks of the season so far and claimed to have barely trained lately, which obviously meant he produced a fine race to finish 10th, ahead of some very good runners. Training is, it seems, massively over-rated! Next to finish was another unexpected name, Oliver Ziff moving through the field all race before finishing like a train, overhauling Mike Burrett (having “a car crash of a last lap”) and then, on the line, passing Martin Hilton to finish 13th.

 

With Martin 14th and Mike 18th, this meant Leeds had 6 runners home before Hallamshire had 4, ensuring the title was regained with room to spare.

 

There was plenty of back-up for the A team; the evergreen Darran Bilton bounced around to 21st place whilst Alex Davy produced one of his best cross-country races to finish 28th. New recruit Tom Edwards made his debut in a Leeds vest and ran a great race to make the top 30, no mean feat in the Yorkshires. Mark Bryant is always a strong performer off-road and he came home in 44th, closely followed by Pete Branney in 50th, who seemed to take chunks out of the opposition on every descent! The B team was completed by Leon Foster in 57th and, with 230 points, would have finished 4th!

 

Tim Crossland and Pete Steel finished 61st and 62nd, whilst Ben Dyson, struggling with a cold, was 81st and Martin Farran 88th. Rob Gatenby rounded out the Leeds finishers in 209th.

 

Part of the difficulty in winning the Yorkshires in the past has been that club members compete in other county championships, and this year was no exception, with Simon Deakin returning to his roots to win the Lancashire championships comfortably.

 

 

Next up, the Northerns at Pontefract, where the senior men will be aiming for a 10th successive title, the women will try to top last year’s silver medals and the juniors will aim to better their 3rd place finish from last year. Bring it on!