Welsh champion takes senior women’s British title at Inter-Counties and World Cross trials at Prestwold Hall, while Grace Brock captures under-20 women’s crown
Less than a couple of hours before her race, Jenny Nesbitt was struggling to get her head around the course during the traditional cross-country runner’s ritual of walking the route. She wasn’t alone, as the various loops and mini-loops confused even the most experienced endurance aficionados at Prestwold Hall on the outskirts of Loughborough on Saturday.
Yet just after midday she had not only negotiated the rolling grassland circuit – which was, notably, over the same 10km distance as the senior men for the first time in history – but she beat a tough, competitive field of World Cross wannabees.
Men’s race report HERE
Jess Piasecki, who had held a significant mid-race lead at one point, finished runner-up, 13 seconds behind Nesbitt, while Mhairi Maclennan took third.
Behind, Kate Avery battled into fourth place, 19-year-old Amelia Quirk was fifth, English National champion Emily Hosker Thornhill was sixth, Lauren Heyes (nee Howarth) seventh, Louise Small eighth, Jess Judd ninth and Claire Duck 10th.
“Luckily I managed to figure out the course and I’m over the moon now!” said Nesbitt. “With 2km to go hail stones started coming down and it was then I decided to push on.”
The 24-year-old continued: “This is definitely the best performance of my career so far. Winning the Welsh title recently meant a lot to me, but to come here and get on the World Cross team, I’m really happy.”
Coached by Chris Jones, she added: “I’ve had such great support and I’m so excited to be running at the World Cross later this month.”
Piasecki, the 2012 European under-23 champion, felt she misjudged the closing stages of the race a little and mistimed her effort, but she was happy to qualify for Aarhus. “I came here to win but I also came here to make the team and managed to do it by the skin of my teeth,” she said. “I’ve not been here for six years so I can’t complain.”
Maclennan was also satisfied after having fallen ill with a viral infection the day after the BUCS Championships at the start of February. “I’ve not had an ideal build up and didn’t even know if I was going to race until Tuesday before the race,” she said, “so I’m very happy to make the team.”
Grace Brock was an emphatic winner of the under-20 women’s title – the Cornish runner storming to a seven-second victory to seal her place in the GB team for Aarhus later this month.
“I felt really strong so I pushed on and held it all together,” said Brock, who lives near Land’s End but found the long journey to Prestwold Hall worthwhile.
Amelia Samuels of Staffordshire was delighted to take silver and also make the team for the World Cross, while Olivia Mason of Cumbria was also full of smiles with bronze and the final automatic place for Aarhus.
For Mason, the achievement was doubly sweet as she is one or two years younger than most of her rivals but gambled on racing in the under-20 event instead of the under-17 race. Also, she is finding her best form again after being laid low for a while with anaemia.
India Pentland enjoyed her first national cross-country title when the North East Counties athlete took the under-17 women’s race by 12 seconds from Tia Wilson of Bedfordshire and Shannon Flockhart of Cambridgeshire.
“It was a really good race,” said Pentland, who is coached by AW contributor David Lowes. “There was a big pack of us all the way until near the end, when myself and Tia broke away. Then I felt strong and thought I’d give it a go.”
Bea Wood took gold for Wiltshire in the under-15 girls race by five seconds from Beth Cook of Sussex as Anna Hedley of Scotland East earned bronze.
Ruby Vinton of Suffolk beat English National winner Scarlett Livingstone of Devon in the under-13 girls race with Francesca Baxter of Buckinghamshire third.
» See the March 14 issue of AW magazine for full coverage