Athletes took to the runway at Merryfield airbase in Somerset on Saturday for one of the biggest cross-country races on the teenage athletics calendar
Athletes from the south of England stamped their authority on the 52nd boys’ and 44th girls’ English Schools Cross Country Championships.
The 12 individual and team gold medals available across the six races were shared between just five counties: Surrey, Berkshire, Hertfordshire, Essex and Kent.
Further emphasising the north/south divide this year, there were only five northerners among the 36 athletes in top six positions during an afternoon of fast racing on a flat, twisty course.
Leading the charge was Emelia Gorecka of Surrey, who took the senior girls’ title in emphatic style from Jessica Judd, who had an equal amount of daylight between herself and bronze medallist and National Cross champion Becky Straw.
Slightly surprisingly, though, despite Gorecka’s dominance during her teenage years it was “only” her third English Schools cross country title. “It’s usually clashed with the World Cross,” she explained.
Senior boys’ winner was Jonny Davies of Berkshire, who overhauled the long-time leader from Suffolk, Kieran Clements, to add to the Inter-Counties title he’d taken the previous weekend.
Perhaps the story of the day, though, was the victory of Jamie Dee of Hertfordshire in the junior boys’ race. His father, Billy, won the Inter-Counties cross country title in 1992, while his mum, who ran under the name of Nicky Morris, took European Indoor 3000m silver in 1989.
Another member of the Dee family – Jamie’s older brother Liam – finished fifth in the inter boys’ race, but the race was won impressively by Scott Halsted. The Berkshire athlete dominated in style, so it’s amazing to think he wasn’t picked for the 2011 English Schools Track and Field Championships after winning his county 1500m title last summer.
In the junior girls’ event, Katie Shiel-Rankin gave Surrey another title. It also meant another gold for coach Mick Woods’ stable, as she is also part of Gorecka’s training group at Aldershot.
In the inter girls’ race, Bobby Clay of Kent beat Annabel Mason of West Yorkshire, with sister Alex winning bronze to make it a great day for the Clay family.
» The March 22 issue of Athletics Weekly will contain 10 pages or more from the English Schools Cross Country Championships, including reports from every race, behind-the-scenes news, stacks of photos and several pages of results.