Teenage runners were bathed in sunshine in Newquay on Saturday as the Cornish seaside town staged the 34th English Schools Cross Country Cup Final
When runners from Cornwall compete in national events, they usually endure long journeys and frequent overnight stays. So when the rare opportunity arises to host a big meeting, the athletics fraternity in the south-westerly tip of the UK relishes the chance to put on a show for their visitors from “up country”.
Five years ago, Newquay Tretherras on the north Cornish coast staged an excellent English Schools Cross Country Cup Final and on Saturday the school rose to the challenge once again. As more than 500 of the nation’s top young cross country runners raced around an undulating, spectator-friendly course, the audience included well-known local athletes such as international middle-distance runner Jemma Simpson and rising star and Tretherras pupil Charlotte Cayton-Smith, who won the junior girls’ race in this meeting on home turf in 2009 before going on to win national under-20 800m gold this year.
Newquay even managed to get the weather gods on its side as sun-drenched athletes raced in unseasonably warm conditions. As Katie Atkinson, winner of the junior girls’ race, said: “We stayed in a nearby hotel and when we saw palm trees and weather we said to each other it felt like Spain.”
Atkinson was one of several athletes who were rewarded for their long journey. The Skipton Girls’ High School student had travelled from North Yorkshire to the West Country and won by six seconds from fellow Yorkshire runner Bethan Morley of Ilkley Grammar School. What’s more, Atkinson led her school to victory in the team competition.
Daniel Slater was another winner who had made a long trip to Cornwall. With a strong, front-running performance, the 14-year-old won the inter boys title representing Sacred Heart Catholic College in Liverpool, although the team honours went to Reading Blue Coat School in Reading.
Yet with the biggest domestic meeting of the weekend – the British Athletics Cross Challenge – taking place on his doorstep in Sefton Park, Slater instead chose to travel to Newquay due to the prestigious nature of the event and the importance his school places on the competition.
Josie Czura of Cams Hill School in Fareham enjoyed a runaway victory in the inter girls race as she beat Inter-Counties champion Alex Brown by more than half a minute with English Schools 1500m champion Beth Barlow third and Brown’s Putney High School team-mate, Katy-Ann McDonald, the UK under-15 800m record-holder, in seventh. Team gold, however, went to The Godolphin and Latymer School in London.
Adam Caulfield of Northampton School for Boys (pictured above, No.15) won the junior boys race after a battle with Alfie Bould of Sandbach, as Harris Mier from Truro School earned a medal for the host county in third. Top team, though, was The Judd School in Tonbridge as they packed well to narrowly beat Queen Elizabeth Grammar from Penrith.
» See the December 4 issue of Athletics Weekly for a longer report and more photographs from the English Schools Cross Country Cup in Newquay