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Cross Country Section

ECCA National Cross Country Championships, Alton Towers, Staffordshire

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Saturday 19 February 2011 – Holmfirth Harriers AC

‘A mud ride at Alton Towers for Harriers athletes’

Saturday saw a group of dedicated Holmfirth Harriers athletes and supporters travel down to Alton Towers in Staffordshire for the English National Cross Country Championships.  Whilst the snow had arrived in Huddersfield overnight, the midlands had experienced heavy rain which meant the course and surrounding area soon became a quagmire after the early races. Athletes commented that they had never run in such muddy conditions, which proved tiring over the undulating course. Over halfway into the race timetable the race organisers took the decision to alter the course for the U15 girls, U13 boys and Senior Women and Men, due to injuries that were sustained in earlier races.  There was a delay in the start of all these races but by the time the men's race got off the marks they were back on track.


The first race was the U15 boys, who had rather a rush to get to their event on time, set off into the mud to enjoy the hilly 4.5k course.  Aaron Arthur was first back for Holmfirth running strongly to come in 242nd place in a time of 21:07 with Eddie Hinchliffe in 265th  (21:30) and brother Robert 315th.

The U13 girls only had three runners and therefore not enough to complete a team.  There was some apprehension amongst the Holmfirth girls over the very big hill on the course, but it didn’t show in their performances.  Lucy Byram  was first back for Holmfirth in a time of 16:02 in 96th position, which she must have been very pleased within having  aimed for a top 200 place. Sister Erica finished well in 166th (16:40) and was followed up by Daisy Mae in 266th place (17:55).
Next up were the U17 men and Max Kaye ran exceptionally to take 20th place in 24:55 despite saying afterwards that it was the worst conditions and toughest course he’d ever run.  Max was backed up by Thomas Travis-Pollard in 104th (27:03), Max Lawton and Jake Richardson in 199th and 250th respectively.  They were the only juniors to field a team, finishing in an excellent 15thposition.

By now the mud had taken a turn for the worse, disrupting the program.  U15 girls were dismissed from their starting pens to allow officials time to investigate the spiralling number of broken bones.  More than 20 minutes later Sophie Spencer got her chance to shine, the sole Holmfirth representative in this event, coming in 186th place in a time of 18:18.
Finally it was the turn of the U13 boys.  Unfortunately their race was unexpectedly cut short leaving Lewis Byram  (41st) and Aaron Kettlewell ( 98th) very disappointed.  Team mate Lewis Bartholomew ran extremely well for 163rd place. 

The planned course for the senior ladies was reduced from two large laps of 4km each to 3 small laps, a distance of approximately 6km, omitting the lower part of the course which had included a very steep hill; welcome news for some athletes but not for others. The senior ladies fielded four runners which was enough to complete a team position.  With some of the regular team counters absent due to half-term holidays, Cara Penfold stepped up to the mark to complete the team.  Katie Walshaw relished the muddy conditions and gradually moved through the field throughout the race to finish in an excellent 33rd place (26:31), an improvement of about 20 places on her position last year.  Ladies' Captain, Helen Berry, found the mud tough going towards the end of the race, but did well to finish in 62nd place (27:35).  Claire Leaver may not have appeared to enjoy the conditions, though finished in 157th place in a time of 30:15.  Cara Penfold ran well and was enthusiastic as ever, running a time of 32:26 in 279th position. The team finished 18th out of 54 complete teams.  487 runners completed the course, which was won after a close run-race by Winchester& District’s Louise Damen in 23:49, ahead of  Hatti Dean of Yorkshire club Hallamshire.  The Bronze medal went to Olympian and Commonwealth marathon runner, Liz Yelling, who won on this course 3 years ago.


The conditions for the senior men’s race were even more atrocious, with thick mud on most parts of the course. Following incidents earlier in the programme the planned course for the men was reduced from three large laps of 4km each to 1 small lap and two large laps, a distance of approximately 10km.

There was a disappointing turnout for the Holmfirth men, who were unable to field a team of six athletes. Richard Smith, ever present during the cross country season, decided to withdraw from the race when he heard news of injuries caused by the conditions and didn’t want to risk injury after sustaining similar injuries in the past. Mark Buckingham led the Holmfirth challenge in his first outing of the cross country season. It was clear the conditions were not to his liking and after a steady start he was in the top fifty on the first big lap, but finished 85th in a time of 39.35. Nathan Martin had a good run for 367th place in 45.22, followed by Gavin Pilkington 728th (51.00) and Brandon Holroyd 843rd (53.15). Over 1,300 men finished the race with Steve Vernon of Stockport, runner-up in the Northern Championships, winning in a time of 35.11, followed by Micky Skinner of Blackheath and Bromley (35.32) and Tom Lancashire of Bolton Harriers the Northern Champion clinching the bronze medal in 35.59. Leeds City AC won the team event, ahead of Tipton Harriers and Bedford.




About Us

Roger BradleyX-C secretary

Roger Bradley







Welcome to the Cross Country pages of Holmfirth Harriers AC. If you’re new to cross country or just thinking about having ago then Holmfirth competes in the WYCC league. This is a series of 4 races, usually in October, November and December (see Race Calendar on Website) and these races are suitable for runners of all abilities. Races start in the morning for juniors, with the senior women usually running at about 1.00pm and the senior men at about 2.00pm. Races are usually in parkland settings but in wet weather can be very muddy when studded shoes or ideally cross country spikes should be worn. In very dry conditions trail shoes can sometimes be used. If you are interested in having ago then talk to Roger Bradley, John Ewart or Helen Berry a.s.a.p. The entry sheet is on the Cross Country notice board and the cost is £7 for all 4 races.


Holmfirth Harriers also compete in the Yorkshire, Northern and English National CC Championships plus the YVAA CC Championships (see Vets Pages) which usually take place in January / February.


In order to get a Cross Country Page up and running on the website I (Rob K) am putting this together but really have more than enough to do with the Vets so if anyone would like to take over and put info., photos, race reports or whatever you like onto the page, then please contact me (contact on Vets page). It is only a short season with one or at the most two events in a month from October to February.


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