The first Cross Country Championship of the year took place at the weekend with the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire County combined event being held at Shipley Country Park at Heanor, and Mansfield Harriers had over 50 athletes finish, complemented by some fantastic individual and team performances. The course was as difficult as they come with it mainly covered in very thick mud throughout the day.

Leading the way for the Mansfield club was the performance of the Under 11 teams who both took the team championship also having the leading runner get a bronze medal. This is an amazing transformation as the two teams have been built from scratch in the last year and is credit to the hard work they have all put in.

The Under 11 girls were first to race and this team has been getting stronger and stronger and peaked superbly for the main event for them in the season. Ella Kennedy had her best run to date to take a bronze individual medal and with Isabel Westwood 7th and Jemima Waller 8th the team closed with 18 points good enough to win by the narrowest of margins one point. Mathilda Bullough raced well for 16th position and Freya Longmead had the misfortune to lose a shoe early and still managed 17th place.

The Under 11 boys were a revelation as they took an unexpected championship. The squad has grown throughout the season and had eight athletes compete at Shipley. James Flint also had his best run to date for an amazing bronze medal with Daniel Graham 7th and Edward Sankey 11th for 21 points and like the girls a victory by one point. Both Flint and Sankey were involved in a full on sprint finish up the last hill to the line and if either had gone the other way the team would have finished second.  Completing the team Matt Young ran well for 17th as did Ellis Blake 18th, Will Wilkinson 20th, Joel Brereton 23rd and William Sankey 24th.

The three Under 17 competitors also put in phenomenal performances with the Scott twins Mollie and Amber battling it out for gold and silver. Mollie went away on the second lap to take the gold medal with Amber taking the silver. In the boy’s race Dylan George put in the club run of the day to take a well deserved if unexpected silver medal. All three have now been selected to run for the County team in the inter county event.

Last race of the day was the Under 15 boys and by then the course was an absolute mud bath. Ben Smith struggled with the course but still put in a classy run for a silver medal with Sam Bentley another having a career best run for 6th and Henry Bullough 8th as they  took a silver team medal, and all earn selection for the county team. Joel Whittaker-Naylor also ran well in the same race for 12th place.

The Under 13 girls were expected to go well but the team were depleted by holiday and illness. However, the girls that ran gave everything and came away with a superb silver team medal with another athlete Ruby Milnes having a career best run for 6th, Beth Hamilton who was 8th picked up an injury on the first lap and showed true team spirit to finish to support her team and Grace Manson 14th. Ava Blake had a superb run for 17th as did Amelia Shackleford in 22nd. Both Milnes and Hamilton also earned county selection. Sophie Toyn competed in the Derbyshire Under 13 race and put in her best run of the winter for 17th place. The Under 13 boys struggled with illness and injury narrowly missed out on a team medal placing 4th with Jake Orr first back in 11th, Oliver Bullough 17th and Harry Wilkinson 22nd.

The ladies had a magnificent 13 athletes compete with the masters team of Kahli Johnson 11th, Bev Armstrong 21st and Helen Pritchett 24th taking silver team medals with evergreen Maddy Collinge 54th taking gold in the masters 65 category and Tina Copcutt 60th taking a silver in the masters 55 age group.  Helen Jones continues to show a welcome return to form with 24th place with a mud covered Karen Kowalski 37th, Helen Hardy 38th, Sharon Armitage 43rd, Jackie Duers 52nd, Angela Purdue 53rd, Sarah Sinclair 55th and Theresa Copcutt showing real team spirit with her 70th placing.

Not far behind the ladies the Mansfield men had an impressive 11 athletes complete the course with Nigel Watkin’s silver in the Masters 55 category and 54th place the only medal. Neil Cope had an excellent run to be first harrier home in 16th closely followed by Jordan Boam in 19th place. Phil Shaw was next home in 29th followed by Gary Morley 43rd, Martin Fickling 50th, Jack Cooke 52nd, Graeme Baguley 101st, Mark Burr 111th, Pete Copcutt 120th and in his first championship event Troy Revell 122nd.

Report by Richard Massey, Coach and Press Officer.

Picture below of the under 11 athletes at Shipley Park.