A round-up of Inter-Counties Cross Country Championships and British Athletics Cross Challenge final action at Cofton Park
European cross country silver medallist Kate Avery took her first Inter-Counties title at Cofton Park, Birmingham, on Saturday (March 12), securing a British Athletics Cross Challenge win in the process.
Avery was the class act in a senior women’s field which also included fellow British international Elle Vernon, who finished 14 seconds back from the athlete representing the North East.
Welshman Dewi Griffiths held off the continual threat of Essex man Adam Hickey to claim the senior men’s title, also taking the overall Cross Challenge win after his victory in Cardiff back in January.
Griffiths led a breakaway field including Hickey and Jonathan Taylor in third, but the Welshman’s dominance on the uphill stretches triumphed over Hickey’s downhill surges.
Avery, who won the Great Edinburgh XCountry while representing Great Britain back in January, said: “I just felt like I was going to run at a pace comfortable for me and if I got away then I got away. It just so happened that I did.
“I felt comfortable and then the last half lap it really started to bite going up he hills.
“It’s a really hilly course, the hilliest I’ve done in a long time. I avoid the hills like the plague. I haven’t done a hill session this winter.”
The 24-year-old Griffiths, fresh off the back of his selection to compete at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, battled to stay ahead of Hickey in a hard-fought race. He said: “Obviously I’m happy with the win. I was third two years ago and second last year so it’s nice to finally get on the top step really.
“I was made to work hard. I think you could see at the end I had nothing left. I think I just wanted it a little bit more at the end.”
The day’s star performer was, however, undoubtedly the European junior 1500m champion Bobby Clay who, without her main rival Harriet Knowles-Jones to worry about, took the lead within the first 200m of the women’s under-20 event and extended that right up to the finishing line, running through the tape almost one minute ahead of Essex’s Gemma Holloway.
The Invicta Kent athlete, who admitted she was “heartbroken” by her fifth-place finish in Hyeres at the European Cross Country Championships back in December, said: “I knew what I wanted to do. I was initially planning to sit in and see how the other girls were running and see how I was feeling on the course. I’ve been indoors for a couple of weeks so to get back on the mud, I felt a bit like Bambi for a bit.
“I felt good up the hills so I thought I’d push up the hills and see where it took me. I was expecting Harriet to be here. It’s a real shame she wasn’t but it was great to get a run out. It felt good. I did enjoy myself.”
Surrey’s Gus Cockle won the men’s under-20 race, the first of the day, finishing ahead of Kent’s William Fuller and Middlesex runner Paulos Asgodom.
Cockle, who finished second at the English Nationals behind team-mate Ellis Cross, said: “The plan was to sit in until the last minute because last year I did the same thing and blacked out. I was in the medical centre throwing up. I thought I’d gone a bit early but thankfully I managed to keep it going. It’s such a stellar field and such an honour to win.”
Meanwhile, in the under-17 women’s race, Welsh national champion Cari Hughes proved too strong for Great Britain junior cross country runner Sabrina Sinha, while Leicestershire’s Isaac Akers took the men’s win just two seconds ahead of Scott Beattie.
Zakariya Mahamed continued his domination of the fields in the under-15s this winter to follow up his wins from Liverpool and Milton Keynes in November.
Kathleen Faes repeated her Inter-Counties victory on the same course from last year, holding off a late charge from Surrey’s Alex Brown, with Faes also retaining her Cross Challenge title.
Surrey’s Harley Norman took the under-13 Inter-Counties crown, beating Yorkshire’s Tommy Dawson by 15 seconds, and Victoria Park City of Glasgow’s Lily-Jane Evans-Haggerty triumphed over Jodie Hill in the girls’ race.
» See the March 17 edition of AW magazine for full reports, pictures and results from Cofton Park