Senior titles secured in dominant fashion at the New Balance English Schools Cross Country Championships in Norwich
Khahisa Mhlanga and Ben Dijkstra secured senior success in style at the New Balance English Schools Cross Country Championships in Norwich on Saturday (March 18).
Racing on a Norfolk County Show Ground course which was mostly flat and fast but featured a few small hills, the pair were among the almost 2000 athletes that braved some gusty winds and heavy rain showers to compete for their counties.
Mhlanga clocked 13:14 for the 4km course to finish six seconds ahead of her stepsister Jodie Judd, leading home not only an Essex one-two but also a top two for their family and their coach, Mick Judd.
“My goal was to have a consistent cross country season and I managed to do that so I’m happy,” said Mhlanga, who finished third at the previous weekend’s Inter-Counties Cross Country Championships and fourth at last month’s English National.
“It’s great, I’m so happy for her,” she added on having her stepsister standing next to her on the podium.
Judd, the younger sister of GB international Jess, who is also now coached by their father Mick, said: “It was a bit of a shock to be honest, I wanted to come top 20! I’ve had some shockers in the English Schools in the past, so I just went in with that aim. To be beaten by your stepsister is quite a unique position so I was quite happy!”
Julia Tomczak finished third for London in 13:24.
Leicestershire and Rutland’s Dijkstra ended his English Schools cross country career on a high as the English National runner-up dominated the senior boys’ race, securing a nine-second victory despite slowing to celebrate his win on approach to the finish line.
Adding to his junior and intermediate titles from the past, the triathlete clocked 21:59 for the 7.2km course to win ahead of Gloucestershire’s Tom Mortimer (22:08) and Cheshire’s Matthew Willis (22:13).
“It was a bit of an emotional finish, I really wanted this one,” said Dijkstra. “I’ve had titles as a junior and inter but I had to miss last year because of an injury.
“This has been my main focus. I’m just over the moon that I could execute the race perfectly and come away with the win today.”
Zakariya Mahamed followed up his Inter-Counties win with victory in the intermediate boys’ 6km race, clocking 18:16 ahead of a fast-finishing Joseph Owen of Middlesex (18:19). Hampshire and Vectis had two athletes on the podium, with Lachlan Wellington pipped into third (18:20).
The intermediate girls’ title was claimed by Olivia Mason, who continued her unbeaten streak so far this year, adding to her Inter-Counties and English National wins.
Mason clocked 12:21 for the 3.75km course ahead of Surrey duo Claudia Lance Jones (12:25) and Charlotte Alexander (12:27).
The junior winners both enjoyed clear victories, with West Yorkshire’s Tommy Dawson securing the boys’ title ahead of
Mohamed Ali of Middlesex and Cheshire’s Sian Heslop getting gold in the girls’ race from Bethany Cook of Sussex.
The first eight from both junior and intermediate age groups also secured selection for the SIAB Cross Country International in Wales on March 25.
» See the March 23 edition of AW magazine for 10 pages of coverage, including individual and team results