Top Action From Juniors At Schools National Final

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Saturday was the culmination of a long journey that, for some, started back in October with their local town cross country championships. Qualifiers went on to the County Championships and if successful, were selected to wear their County colours at the Inter-Counties; so as you can see, just reaching the National Finals is a massive achievement in itself. There were exceptions, who’s route to the finals differed slightly as we’ll see, but to have 6 of our junior Harriers representing Durham County Schools tells you something about the talent we have at our club.

Conditions, generally, haven’t been too bad this cross country season; apart from a covering of snow at the Inter-Counties, so far things have been manageable. However, things were about to change! With a forecast of rain all day, possibly snow, things were going to be tough, and an update in Athletics Weekly certainly put competitors clearly in the picture: “The weather forecast is brrr…with strong cold winds bringing maybe about 20mm of snow…perhaps…no more. This is normal cross country weather in England and the Championships will go ahead as planned. This is your chance to decry the increasing perception that kids nowadays are ‘snowflakes!’ Turn up. Run. Get cold. Get muddy. Enjoy getting warm again! This is proper cross country weather.” In other words, just get on with it! Harsh words you might think. As it happens, the snow held off, but conditions were still horrendous. The rain was relentless, with athletes struggling to keep their footing on ground that became increasingly churned up during the day. But it made for some top cross country action!

Junior Boys As we mentioned in last week’s report, Daniel Richardson has only recently been given the all clear to compete, having just recovered from his injury. Winning his school cross country last week was a sign that things were pretty much back to normal, but Dan’s still in Year 8 and here a year young so today was going to be tough. But as usual he worked hard and produced an impressive performance, finishing in 167th place out of the 343 runners, and the 3rd counter for Durham; a great time too, of 15:17. Well done Dan, a fantastic effort, which bodes well for next year. Bring it on!☺
InterBoys After being reduced to just one of the dynamic duo at the previous week’s UK Inter-Counties, Adam & John Russell were re-united to run for Durham’s Inter Boys today. As with Dan in the Juniors, this was their first year at this age group so today wasn’t going to be easy, with some strong competition to contend with. The gruelling 5.2k course was tough by anyone’s standards, made only worse by the conditions underfoot, but it was Adam that battled his way to the finish line first in 56th place, in a time of 18:09; this was only 26 seconds behind the winner, and the 2nd counter for Durham. There’s never a lot between the two brothers and it was just 38 seconds that separated them today. Another great run from John brought him across the line in 130th place out of a field of 331, being the 4th Durham counter. An excellent result for both considering their age. We look forward to seeing them back again next year. Well done, lads. Our third Inter Boy was Daniel Boyer. Things started off fine, but after a while he started feeling dizzy and sick, so unfortunately had to retire from the race. Bad luck, Dan, hope to see you back again next year as well.

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Senior Girls Back for their second National Final in two weeks were our super talented duo, India Pentland and Catherine Roberts. This was their first time as Senior Girls today, so still a year young, but both having huge potential. At this age, their route to the finals was slightly different to the rest. India’s first run was at the County Championship which she won easily, and was enough to be selected for the finals; Catherine couldn’t run the county race due to an injury, but was able to run at the Inter-Counties, and did enough there for selection into the Durham Countyteam for today’sfinal.
With India crowned as British Champion just 7 days earlier, confidence was booming and she felt she could do well, but no doubt was feeling the pressure as she lined up at the start. Her race plan was the same as the previous week. She got a good start and settled into 3rd place on the shoulders of the leaders. It stayed that way for a good part of the race, until the front three gradually broke away and opened up a healthy gap, and it wasn’t until the final bend of the 4.1k circuit that India kicked hard and accelerated into 1st place and crossed the line, winning by 4 seconds. A perfectly executed race and another National title. “I didn’t think I was going to win that and I’m not sure where my finish came from,” said India afterwards. Another outstanding performance, congratulations, India.
Catherine soon settled into her own pace and battled hard against the older competition. As one of the younger athletes she certainly held her own and looked strong as she worked her way round the gruelling course. She finally crossed the line in 103rd place in a time of 17:15, and the 4th counter for Durham. Well done, Catherine, a fantastic effort, and one that bodes well for next year!

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