It seems hard to believe that the Hampshire Cross Country League was starting again as we arrived at the course in Wellesley woodlands in Aldershot this weekend. There was a freshness to the day and a heavy dew on the ground that was damp and soft under foot.
We travelled over with 11 athletes from the junior endurance group to the first of the series. There was an air of excitement with a little nerves thrown in as well. After dividing into three groups, dependent on what distance they were running, we set off to walk the courses. Nerves were a big part of the youngest group and we took the time to ensure that they had the course firmly in their minds before they started their warm up.
Florence Williams U11G travelled with her parents to her first race in the UK. Williams was in the capable hands of her father, Nick (one of our JSAC coaches) and was first up. Williams started the same way she finished, at the front. The young athlete showed a very determined performance finishing in first place.
Thea Thompson was up next, immediately followed by Zane Simpson and Hugo Nowacki, all running 3k in the U13 category. Thompson, first year U13G, had a great start and led the girls around the short lap and into the woods. Thompson came through the woods in fourth place and with just 50m to the finish line had an epic sprint to finish in 3rd in 12 minutes flat. The boys started immediately after the girls and Zane was hoping to improve on his 9th position from last year. Both boys were top end of their age category. The boys both had a great start off of the line and took the first corner in 7th and 10th. By the end of the first lap Simpson was in 4th and Nowacki in 9th. A few minutes later they came over the finish line, Simpson in 5th (11.29) and Nowacki in 7th (11.39).
Straight into the next race was Isla Hall racing as a first year U15G and current U13 Hampshire league winner. A new distance of 4k meant a different course from last year but Hall started strong alongside the 54 other athletes. Hall ran the first loop in the front pack before moving into the woodlands. Hall was still in the leading pack coming out the other side before heading into the second loop. Hall finished the race in 2nd in 16.49, 13 seconds ahead of 3rd place.
Sam Oldham, U15B, was next on the start line. This was Oldham’s first Cross Country race and although nervous managed a quick start at the gun. Oldham was also running 4k which was a new competitive distance for him. Oldham settled nicely into the race and looked comfortable he continued pushing through the woods and finished in 34/54 in 17.42.
The U17W were the next up running 4k. Hollie Masefield and Ella Hughes are both experienced cross country runners and were looking forward to running a new course. The smallest category of the day with only 27 runners made it easier to spot the blue vest as they came around the first bend. Masefield had a cracking start coming around the bend in 4th and Hughes had been pushed back into 18th. They both looked strong as they approached the woodlands. After a few minutes they headed towards the finish line, Masefield finished 11th in 18.34 and Hughes battled fiercely in a sprint finish to claim 16th in 19.19.
Last up was the U17M category. We had a strong team entered into this last race of the day with Bradley Andrews-Callec, current U15 Hampshire league winner, Casper Whitewood, George and Edward Carney. Andrews-Callec, and the Carney men were new to this distance and age category. They would be running 5.9k, a short loop, a medium loop and the long loop. A lead pack was formed quickly with Andrews-Callec in the top 6 and G Carney leading the second pack. The men passed us again on the second loop and the lead runner had taken a gap on what was now a group of three with Andrews-Callec leading. G Carney was closing in with Whitewood and E Carney chasing behind. The finish line saw Andrews-Callec finish in 5th (21.30), G Carney 6th (21.31) E Carney 15th (22.27) and Whitewood 25th (23.02). As a team they all did fantastically well and Jersey Spartans are currently 2nd in the league.
The athletes were a fantastic team and all very supportive of each other. Jersey Spartans stood strong amongst the 19 other clubs that raced. The next match is at Kings Park, Bournemouth on the 3rd December.