The Cross-Country Championship Season opened on Saturday with the County Young Athletes and Veterans’ Championships. It was held on a new course at Writtle Agricultural College in perfectly sunny conditions.

Just 2 bronze medals were the Harriers reward.

Hayley Instance ran a gutsey race to take the bronze medal in the under 15’s, and with it earns selection for the main intercounties race in February. Hayley is in the first year of this age group so this was an especially good performance.

At the other end of the age spectrum Mick Bumstead ran his usual well judged race to win bronze in the 60+ age group. Mick has been winning medals at these events for the last 40 years and this medium of the sport is his least favourite!!

Great disappointment struck the U15 boys section. They returned home with bronze medals but, later after a recount they were relegated to 4th place behind Ilford.

Ben Prior 13th and Harry Parker 25th didn’t find part of the course to their liking but fought on to the finish.  Jamie Mack is showing return to his best form and can be pleased with his 30th place and Henri Willett was delighted to be part of the scoring quartet in the very strong team.

Another top 10 finisher was Demi Eves who was 6th in the under 13 girl’s event and will hope this performance will earn her selection for the inter-county event. In her race Rosie Spring 27th, Kennedy Beardwell 46th and Madeleine Booty 47th.

The largest fields of the day were in the veterans’ races. 130 started the MV50 race. Don Lawless led the Thurrock 6 man squad in an excellent 16th place. Race-rusty John Green was 27th, medal winning Mick Bumstead 39th overall. Gary Cahill, with a best ever race, finished 52nd. The team dropped from last year’s 3rd place to a still respectable 5th. Martin Mack was 54th and Bernie Johnson was 77th overall and 10th in the 60+ age group.

There were 100 starters in the MV50 event. Former silver medallist Scott Rice ran steadily to 14th place. Toby Draper 31st, Nick Trencher 48th and Nigel Instance, carrying an injury, was 79th, and saw the team to 11th place.

Only FV35 lady to run was Victoria Peacock who was delighted with her 34th place among the 111 finishers.

The good team performance came from the improving under 13 team. Dylan Harrod fought through to 11th place. Munashe Kumadiro was 20th, Sunny Vehitt a rewarding 25th and Kai Lovelock 28th. This quartet earned 5th place in the team event. Henry Moore 33rd, Noah Trencher 38th and Chand Dhillon 39th provided strong back-up.

Other finishers on the day: Under 15 girls Amy Raven 27th, Emily Fall 38th.

After a gruelling race at the Liverpool Grand Prix, which included the European trials, Gemma Holloway spent the rest of the weekend worrying about being selected for upcoming internationals in her under 20 age group. She was in a group of three who fought out the 4th, 5th and 6th places, knowing that 4th place brought automatic selection. Unluckily for Gemma she crossed the line 6th which meant she must gain selection via one of the discretionary places.

Claire Whitbread