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29 January 2018

Northern Cross-Country Championships Junior & Senior Report

A somewhat depleted group of Trafford athletes made the journey across the Pennines to take part in the Northern Cross Country Championships at the magnificent setting of Harewood House near Leeds. These Championships were first held in 1883 and always provide a great showcase for the cross country talent of the North. The undulating course was sufficient to provide a true test of the cross country ability of the athletes.


Unfortunately, illness and injury prevented many of our most promising athletes from taking part, but those who ran put in some great performances. 


Pride of place goes to our U20 Men. Jay Ferns and Mac O'Malley put any friendship aside as they battled through to finish 9th and 11th respectively. Nathan Townsend travelled up from University in London to finish 42nd after a season interrupted by injury.


Trafford  only had two athletes in the U17 Mens race. Cynog Williams continued his recent impressive improvement to place 25th and Jack Wilkinson, competing in his 6th consecutive Northern Championship, finished in the top half of the field in 56th position.


We had high hopes for our U15 Boys team after their excellent season so far. Unfortunately, illness weakened the team for this event, although they still managed to finish in 4th place, just outside the medals. On a demanding 4k course with over 200 starters, we had 5 runners within 22 seconds of each other at the finish. On this occasion they were led home by Alex Bailey in 41st place, closely followed by Joe Bentall (46th), Joe Mangan (52nd), Jack McNicol (66th) and Theo Symons Treacher (68th). Jack's performance was particularly noteworthy as this was his first ever real cross country race and his debut for Trafford AC. Tom Bentall and Jonny Stock also had their own private battle further down the field.


Charlie Massey was our only athlete in the U13 Boys race. In a large field of 232 runners he comfortably finished in the top half and promises well for the future.


Impressively, 7 Trafford runners finished the U13 Girls event. Led by the ever-improving Neve Davenport (89th), she was followed home by Olivia Russell (114th), Lila Wainwright (118th), Cleo Bentall (155th), Freya Griffiths (157th), Marina Guardascione (159th) and Imogen Davenport (232nd). The great team spirit and enthusiasm of this group will only see them getting better over time. 


Caitlin Doohan (95th) and Sinead O'Driscoll (161st) also ran well to complete the tough U15 Girls course.


Next week the junior venue moves to Heaton Park where most of our young athletes will be taking part in the Greater Manchester Schools Cross Country Championships with selection for the English Schools Championships as a target for many of them.


Eager to avoid a repeat of #skittlesgate from the Area League 2 weeks prior, the Senior Mens’ team set off up the starting hill sure-footed in a packed field.  The trident of Darren, Jeff and Simon carved their way into a very competitive field with Matt, David and Nick battling just behind.  


Although the ground was pretty churned in places, those who enjoyed/survived last years mega-mud-mania Northerns at Knowsley were pleasantly surprised to find something a little firmer in places on this undulating course.  Keeping up the challenge was a ‘forgotten hill’ late in the lap, sneaking up on it’s victims shortly after its energy-sapping bigger-brother half way around.


2 laps and just under 12km later, we had 6 confirmed white/blue/yellow(and muddy brown) finishers with a top 20 place to be proud of. Trafford AC Senior Men finishing 19th with 125th (Darren Russell), 134th (Simon O’Meara), 159th (Jeff Prest), 202nd (Matt Berry), 289th (Dave Maher) and 412th (Nick Brown) places .


As we were shaking hands and seeing if there were actually any shoes under all of those layers of mud, the weather changed with a darkened sky and accelerating wind, nudging the weary runners onto their onward destinations.


The Senior Women finished a well-earned 14th team with Vicki Cronin 59th, Sarah Hudak 73rd, Nicole Davenport 138th and Mel Monks 161st (first four to count).  Also running were the reliable Louise Mangan in 216th and team captain Sue Exon 355th.  In last year’s championships we had only three runners so didn’t complete a team, while in 2016 the team were a brilliant 5th and in 2015 again there was no complete team.  Looking to next year, there is reason to expect a good turn out from the women and another respectable team placing.  The area cross-country league has been enthusiastically attended the past few years and there is a strong team spirit in Hutch’s training squad which will only help raise the bar.


Neil Canham (Juniors), Matt Berry (SM), Simon O'Meara (SW)

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