This year we took 22 athletes for a weekend trip to the Championships. Flying into Gatwick to keep the costs low, there was great humour and a real buzz on the coach heading down towards Southampton. On arrival at the hotel we met coach Chris and son Elliot where we all had dinner together before heading to our rooms for a good night sleep ready for the 9am departure the following day.
After a good hearty breakfast, everyone was in good spirits and headed on the minibus to the Manor. It was drizzly at best, but nothing compared to last year!
On arrival, we met three other young athletes that didn’t travel with the group due to being in the under 11 age category.
The group was led around the course by the coaches and chaperones whilst the hut was set up. This year we chose not to take the tent and instead hired the eco-hut from the YMCA. I think everyone agreed that this was a much better option for us!
The first races of the day was the under 11s, which saw Florence Williams take gold, Teddy Wilson bronze and Indy Simpson 19th. For the boys, this was their first UK race and was a fantastic experience for them both. Williams had taken part in one of the league races and knew what she was doing from start to finish. Definitely somebody to watch for the future.
The under 13s boys were made up of a team of five. Zane Simpson, Hugo Nowacki, Myles Christopher, Freddie Cornic and Theo Bell. For Christopher, Cornic and Bell it was their first UK cross country trip. Simpson and Nowacki had a great start off the line followed closely by the others. Simpson took an early lead and led the course for the first 2 km. The athletes were expecting to run 3300m and after a few minutes came into the final loop, Simpson finished in 4th, Nowacki 15th, Christopher 18th, Cornic 27th and Bell 37th. There were 46 runners in total and the under 13 boys team finished fifth overall.
Next up was the under 13 girls, which Thea Thompson and Poppy Mapplebeck were running as first years. This was Mapplebecks first cross country in the UK and was well supported by Thompson who has a little more experience. Both athletes had a great start off the line and joined the front runners after the first 300m. They were also running 3300m and both seemed happy and relaxed halfway through. Thompson finished 8th, Mapplebeck 28th with 36 runners in total.
Followed immediately after was the under 15 boys team which consisted of Rory Baines, Herbie Buchholz, Ralph Depledge and Samuel Oldham. The athletes were warmed up by coach Gary and led to the line. Baines and Buchholz had a flying start with Baines joining the front pack early on. After the first arena loop the front pack had 20m lead with Buchholz comfortably in the second pack. It was clear as they came into the arena lap for the final time who the leaders were. Baines held onto fourth place all the way round with Buchholz finishing in 9th. Oldham took a tumble at the turnaround tree and Depledge, in great sportsmanship manner, helped him up before crossing the finishing line in 33rd and 31st respectively. The U15B team finished 4th overall.
The under 15 girls were already at the start line and raring to go. The team was made up of Isla Hall, Hannah Sterry, Seaena Silvester, Thailia Iezzoni, Ruby Robbins and Ciara Lelai. Robbins was experiencing her first UK cross-country whilst the others have experienced this course previously. Hall, as usual, had a great start as did Silvester. With 41 athletes in this race, all the girls were in the top half around the first bend. With 3900m ahead of them the athletes had all paced themselves well. As they came into the final arena loop, Hall crossed the finish line in 2nd, Sterry 3rd, Silvester 8th, Iezzoni 29th, Robbins 39th, and Lelai 41st. The girls under 15 team finished in third picking up a bronze team medal .
The penultimate team was the under 17 women, which this year was made up of Elizabeth Atkinson, Hollie Masefield and Ella Hughes all second year athletes and very experienced on this course. Masefield had a cracking start off the line, followed in hot pursuit by Atkinson and Hughes. The athletes were joined by 16 other runners and were running 5150m. The race spread out very quickly on the arena lap before heading into the woods. Masefield continued to look strong, headed back onto the arena and crossed the line in 4th. Hughes, 12th and Atkinson 14th. The under 17 women’s team finished third overall bringing home a bronze medal.
The last junior race of the day was the under 17 men. The team was made up of Bradley Andrews Callec, Casper Whitewood, and George Carney. All the athletes have experience on this course and looked deep in thought on the start line. They were joined by 24 other athletes and were running 5900m. The athletes all started very well and went immediately into the woods to complete one full lap and one medium lap. As the men came round past the arena they all looked relaxed and comfortable. The finishing line was in sight, Andrews-Callec crossed over in 2nd, Carney 8th and Whitewood 18th. The team finished second overall earning a silver medal.
We gathered all our belongings together and headed to the minibus as the last race of the day was starting for the senior men. George Rice was running 11800m for Jersey Spartans and finished in 10th.
After the races had finished, we headed back to the hotel to clean up some exceptionally muddy athletes before heading into town. The older athletes were looking forward to a couple of hours of shopping, while the younger athletes were taken to the bowling alley and escape room. We joined each other again for dinner at an all you can eat buffet which seem to go down very well with our hungry young athletes!
It was back to the hotel for a more relaxed evening as we were travelling back to Gatwick the following morning.
Congratulations to all the athletes who ran a tough race, but a special mention to the following athletes who have all had Hampshire county places confirmed, Andrews-Callec, Masefield, Hall, Sterry, Baines and Simpson. These places where confirmed on Sunday as those athletes had top four places at the championships.
The athletes all had a fantastic time and are always appreciative of the support of the coaches and chaperones. The trip wouldn’t have been made possible without the help of Chris and Elliot Dorey, Gary Broster, Judy Andrews-Callec, Carly Silvester and Chris Hall.