AFTER qualifying through school, district and county competitions, the top athletes from schools in Herefordshire and Worcestershire headed to Leeds to compete in Saturday’s prestigious New Balance English Schools’ Cross Country Championships.
The Hereford & Worcester Schools’ Athletics Association team were up against the best in the country at Temple Newsam Park where around 350 athletes from 44 counties were in action.
It is a tough competition, but all aspire to qualify for this renowned annual competition, for which this year wind, sleet and snow added to the challenges faced.
H&W’s best team result came in the junior boys’ age group in which 663 points placed them 15th. Four athletes finished in the top 100, led by Max Price from Haybridge High School, Hagley, who was 79th.
He was very closely followed by Henry Faizey (Woodrush High School, Wythall) in 81st. Both athletes were given the same time (15mins, 33secs) competing in their first English Schools’ Cross Country.
Only two and five seconds behind were two Redditch athletes – Josh Robins (Trinity High School) and Joe Cunliffe (Ridgeway Academy) – who placed 87th and 96th respectively – an improvement on their placings from last year.
The team’s top two finishers in the intermediate boys’ race were Scott Jones (Wigmore High School, Leominster, 236th) and Harrison Mayne (St Augustine’s High School, Redditch, 272nd) – both in their first year at this age group.
H&W’s highest placed individual was Lily Saxon from Ridgeway Academy, Redditch. She was 32nd in the junior girls’ race in a time of 12mins, 9secs, just more than a minute behind race winner Bea Wood from Wiltshire.
Also inside the top 100 was Natalie Hatfield of Bromsgrove School (84th), whilst Libby Hawkswell (Bewdley High School, 184th) was the next H&W athlete back, less than a minute behind Saxon.
These athletes also competed last year and their team total was the highest among the three H&W girls’ teams.
Lottie Roberts of Prince Henry’s High School, Evesham, was best placed in the intermediate girls’ race (116th) – a comparable position from last year when competing as a junior.
Georgia Fox (Nunnery Wood, Worcester, 165th) was the next athlete home, closely followed by Holly Love (177th) from The Chase School in Malvern.
In the senior girls’ race Chloe Wheeler (John Kyrle High School, Ross-on-Wye) was first home in 89th position, more than 100 places better than last year.
Girls’ team captain Abbie Saker (Bromsgrove School) was close behind in 98th – another top 100 achievement to add to her collection – having competed for H&W in every year of school age group eligibility.
Ellen Bowen (St Augustine’s High School, Redditch, 151st) was the third-placed athlete in the team.
A challenge of 6.8km awaited the senior boys over the toughest of ground conditions after the other five races.
George Beardmore, of Royal Grammar School, Worcester, bettered his result of last year with 49th place in his first year as a senior. The next athlete home was also representing a Worcester school – Jake Cavens from Christopher Whitehead who was 172nd.
Hereford & Worcester Schools’ Athletics Association secretary and cross country team manager Ann Triptree said: “It was not the best weekend in terms of weather, but it was what is usually associated with cross country!
“A full turnout and the positive attitude to race in these conditions was a credit to the athletes and their parents and carers.”