Kate Avery (coach: Tony Simmons, county: North East) and Dewi Griffiths (Kevin Evans, West Wales) both earned their first senior inter-counties titles at Cofton Park, and additionally captured the 2015/2016 Cross Challenge senior crowns as the cross country season drew to a close.
Avery, who won in Antrim earlier in the series alongside her magnificent victory at the Great Edinburgh Cross Country in January, showed her class to finish 14 seconds clear of Elle Vernon (Steve Vernon, Stockport Harriers) with Louise Small (Mick Woods, Hampshire) claiming third place in the senior women’s race.
Double European Cross Country Championships silver medallist Avery said: “It is my first win (in the Inter-Counties) here – last time I won here was in 2005 in the U13 Nationals. I just went out there to run how I felt and if I got away, then so be it and I felt comfortable. It was a really hilly course, the hilliest for a long time.
“My cross country season has been very unexpected, I didn’t think I would race as much after the Euro Cross, however I didn’t want to do indoors but wanted to keep racing. It has really worked out well this season and given me great confidence which I can only see as a good thing going ahead. The 10,000m Olympic trials (Highgate Harriers Night of 10,000m PBs) are in May so I will now look towards that.”
Five-time Welsh cross country champion Griffiths ran out the winner in the senior men’s race after a battle with Adam Hickey (Eamonn Martin, Essex). After Jonny Taylor (Gordon Surtees, North East) made the initial move on the first lap, the top three made a breakaway move which split up the field. Taylor faded on the second lap but Griffiths showed his strength on the final hill to pull away from Hickey.
Griffiths commented: “I’ve finished third and second here for the last two years to it is nice to be on top of that podium at last. I had nothing left at the end, I gave everything but I wanted it that little bit more. It was a very hard race – I thought it was Jonny’s (Taylor) race to lose on the first lap and then half way through Adam (Hickey) did the same.”
He added: “Ten year ago I won the U15 (Inter-Counties) title in Nottingham so I think it is pretty cool to win the seniors as well.”
Gus Cockle (Mick Woods, Surrey) was a dominant winner as he captured his first junior men’s Inter-Counties title. The Surrey athlete opened up a 30m lead after the first lap and the gap continued to widen over the next 5km. In the end it was comfortable for the Aldershot Farnham & District athlete ahead of William Fuller (David Liston, Kent) and Paulos Asgodom (Craig Winrow, Middlesex).
Cockle commented: “I’m over the moon, I thought I had gone too early but I knew I had committed so I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to look behind but the crowd kept telling me how far ahead I was. The plan was to sit in because I did the same thing last year (made a move early) and blacked out. But I’m glad I had the strength in me to keep it going. It was such a stellar field so I am honoured to win.”
Mahamed Mahamed (Peter Haynes, Hampshire), winner in Milton Keynes in the opening fixture, confirmed his first place in the junior men’s overall Cross Challenge standings after a winter season which saw him earn his first British vest at the European Cross Country Championships.
After victories in Milton Keynes and Liverpool in 2015, Bobby Clay (Rob Denmark, Kent) was a dominant winner in the junior women’s race, finishing almost a minute ahead of her closest rival. The European Junior 3000m champion was ahead of Gemma Holloway (Essex) and Phoebe Law (Richard Holt, Surrey), to seize the Cross Challenge series title.
Clay spoke afterwards: “I love coming here (to Cofton Park), it is my favourite course. I love doing the Cross Challenge events. The spectators are so close to you here and it is always a great atmosphere at the last race of the (cross country) season. Everyone gives it a good go here.”
Cari Hughes (Andrew Walling, North Wales) was triumphant in the U17 women’s category ahead of GB junior international Sabrina Sinha (Peter Mullervy, Kent) after making a decisive move on the final lap. The two athletes were locked in battle heading but Hughes was the stronger over the undulating course and additionally won the U17 Cross Challenge series crown.
Isaac Akers (Bill Boyd, Leicestershire) and Scott Beattie (Mike Bateman, North East) were involved in the most thrilling finish of the day after an engrossing contest across the 6000m course. Akers won and also contributed to Leicestershire’s team victory. Sol Sweeney (Catriona Helen Tavendale, Scotland East) finished third on the day but did succeed in winning the Cross Challenge title.
Zakariya Mahamed (Haynes, Hampshire), brother of Mahamed, triumphant in the U17 series, also enjoyed success on the Cofton Park fields winning the Inter-Counties title and doubled the joy with victory in the U15 boys Cross Challenge overall standings.
Kathleen Faes (Nikolaas Faes, Kent) regained her U15 women’s Inter-Counties crown after pipping Alex Brown (Surrey) who was closing her opponent down in the final stages of the 4000m course.
There was a surprise in the U13 boy’s race as Tommy Dawson (Yorkshire), winner of two Cross Challenge fixtures this year was beaten by Harley Norman (Surrey). However, the Yorkshire athlete did capture the overall Cross Challenge title after showing great consistency across the season.
In the U13 girl’s race, Lily-Jayne Evans-Haggerty (Victoria Park City of Glasgow) made the long trip down from Glasgow very worthwhile as she won the Inter-Counties to add to her victory from Liverpool’s Sefton Park last November. Another Scottish athlete, Kate Richardson (Giffnock North AAC) won the Cross Challenge title.
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