New Balance English Schools Cross Country Championships 2019 – Temple Newsam Park, Leeds (Report by Jeff Southern)
Six Birtley AC athletes all boarded the Durham Team coach on Saturday for a relatively early morning trip to Leeds to take part in the English Schools Cross Championships. Those six Birtley athletes competed in all championship age groups with the exception of Intermediate Boys, a fantastic achievement for the club.
Temple Newsam Park in Leeds was holding the Championships for the second year in succession so the course was familiar to some making a return.
The weather, as forecast, was dreadful with incessant rain and a gusty wind but this would not dent the spirit of the athletes who had all worked so hard for their selection. They were all determined to enjoy their day.
The course was hilly and run, generally, on well cut grass fields forming the grounds of Temple Newsam House. The course, however, was soon to cut up and by the last race was very heavy underfoot with extremely tricky downhill sections where even long spikes did not guarantee a ‘slip free’ descent.
The day began with Tess Graham in the Intermediate Girls Championship run over a distance of 3710m. Tess had a really solid run finishing in 117th position out of 341 competitors and was Durham’s fifth girl home. Tess still has another year in this age category.
Next up was Chris Perkins in the Junior Boys Championship competing over a distance of 4100m. Chris had a great start and was soon occupying what is becoming a familiar position at the front of the race along with his local rival Josh Blevins along with another athlete known to Chris, Lewis Sullivan from Suffolk. It was a three-horse race until the beginning of the second longer lap, at which point Lewis pulled into an unassailable lead, with Josh clear in second. Chris was occupying a comfortable third place but it was clear that there were a number of runners who appear to have left something in the tank for a final push to the line. On a difficult uphill finish, Chris relinquished three places but finished in an excellent 6th place to claim his first England vest - a fantastic achievement.
The Junior Girls were up next with both Katie Francis and Abigail Thwaites competing over the 3000m course. Katie did not get the best of starts, possibly due to her diminutive stature but she quickly started moving through the field, eventually finishing in 19th place and first counter for Durham - a fantastic run. Abigail, on a course that was perhaps not to her strengths, dug deep to finish in 307th position . Both girls have had brilliant cross-country seasons.
At 2.35, it was the turn of the Senior Girls with Birtley’s sole representative, Eve Southern, competing in her first English Schools Final. Its great to see that after so many near misses, Eve finally got her chance and she wasn’t going to let anything spoil her day. Due to the pen system at the start, Eve was not able to get off to her usual positive start but the 4100m course would provide plenty opportunity for her to work steadily through the field. This she did and finished in a creditable 237th position.
In the final race of the day Ollie Barret was competing in the Senior Boys Championship having only taken up running seriously last Autumn. The course was extremely heavy going at this stage and Ollie was not the only boy having difficulty with their footing. In the longest race of the day, run over 6700m, Ollie did well to stay upright and finished in 288th place and sixth counter for Durham.
For all those who competed, the day was a fantastic experience with every single Birtley athlete doing themselves, their County and Club extremely proud. A big thank you to all of the parents who made the journey to support and also to Gary and Shannel for their support on the day but also throughout the season.
Rebecca is the North East Pentathlon Champion 2019
Cross-country wasn't the only event this weekend - the NECAA Indoor Pentathlon Championships were also taking place (in somewhat warmer, drier conditions!). Young athlete Amy Drummond was competing in her very first pentathlon, and she PB'ed in almost every event - well done Amy!
Rebecca Pottinger excelled, becoming North East Champion whilst up against a variety of talented athletes, ably demonstrating that it's always possible to come back to track and field, even after a few years out! Huge well done to Rebecca - full results can be seen on this link