North of England Cross Country Championships

Sunshine and blue skies was the backdrop for cross country athletes competing in the Northern Cross country Championships on Saturday, Pontefract Park the venue, a short drive for the Holmfirth contingent. The gently undulating, well drained course suited runners but not so spectators as the athletes disappeared off in to the far distance reappearing after they had completed large laps of up to 4km.

Holmfirth's athletes both junior and senior were in action during the course of the day. With several athletes inside the top 2o, 3 in the top 10 and some great team performances the travelling support had much to cheer about.

Olivia Sykes, continued her run of good form with a gutsy performance in the U13 girls race. With several of the best girls in the country running in the North the race was always going to be tough. In 8th place with 400m to go , Olivia came through the field using her strength on the uphill run in to the finish passing 3 athletes including Yorkshire Championship Imani Wilson of Hallamshire. Her 4th place as an individual was matched by the girls team performance. Erica Byram second counter for the team had a storming run to come through in 16th place, with siser Lucy only 11 places behind in 27th and Anna Charles worth in her first season of cross country in spot the girls taking 4th team place an excellent result, with 57 club in the race and 27compete teams. Backing up these 4 girls were Daisy Hinchcliffe in 108th , Esme wilde in 135th and Isabelle Haley-Porteous in 162nd. Andrew Farquhar and Lewis Bartholomew ran strongly in the U13 boys race to come home in 66thand 89th place respectively great placings in a field of 170 athletes.

The U15 races were equally exciting for the fans. Lewis Byram, second in the Yorkshire Championship had hopes of a top 5 finish here against the North. After a difficult start from an outside pen after the first kilometre of the 4k course Lewis found himself languishing in the mid 30s, undeterred he used his strength to work through the field and finished strongly in 7th position excellent running at this level. Team mates, Aaron Arthur, Aaron Kettlewell and Eddie Hinchcliffe also struggled at the start but managed like Lewis to work through the field and finished in 78th, 82nd and 99th places respectively with the team finishing in 9th . Sophie Spencer and Lucy Farquhar both ran strongly in the girl's race coming through to finish in 64th and 68th.

The highlight from the older junior age groups was Max Kaye running in the U20 race. Max gave his usual gutsy performance finishing strongly in 10th place. Team mates Max Lawton and Jake Richardson ran strongly to finish in 73rd and 75th. Ruby Sykes and Peter Franklin represented the club in the U17 races. Both ran strongly in this their first year of U17 competition and finished in 64th and 58th place.

The Senior Ladies race was competed over an 8km, 2 lap course. The leaders in the race provided an exciting event for spectators, with positions and medal places being turned on their heads and decided in the final 800 metres or so. GB international Lizzie Adams from Sheffield's Hallamshire Harriers sat in the front group, making her move and taking the lead with minutes to go. Leeds City's Susan Partridge moved up from 4th to 2nd, leaving Jess Coulson of Stockport who had led for most of the race in bronze position. Holmfirth's ladies had a great day, collectively and individually, with many athletes improving their positions of last year's event. Katie Walshaw, fresh from representing North of England a fortnight earlier in the McCain Cross Challenge in Cardiff, gave her usual gutsy performance and just lost out in a sprint finish to take 9th place, though was awarded the same time (32:34) as 8th place. Helen Berry ran a very well paced race, gradually moving through from the top 30 on lap one to finish in an excellent 15th place (33:07). Claire Leaver felt no ill-effects from the previous week's Brass Monkey Half Marathon and had a great run to finish in 51st place (35:38). The team was completed by Lucy Needham, who whilst not particularly pleased with her run, did very well to cross the line in 82nd place (37:49). Cara Penfold, who deserves the improvements she's made since the beginning of the season, finished in 127th place (40:19). 235 athletes completed the course and Holmfirth's ladies secured 6th team out of 25 complete teams. The team medals were all taken by Yorkshire clubs, with Leeds City taking the gold.

The longest (12km) race of the day was the Senior men's the final race on the programme. Won by last's National Cross country champion Steve Vernon of Stockport Harriers the race featured just 2 Holmfirth athletes. James Little who finished strongly in 141th place and Paul Smith in 244th, this a warm up for his second place at Meltham 10k the following day.

Photos courtesy Deborah Byram

Photos courtesy Norman Berry

Pre-2012 news, results & reports are on the old sites: 2009 to 2011, Pre-2009

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