Saturday saw the highlight of the Schools Cross Country calendar with the top eight athletes from all 45 counties competing to become the best in the country. Entry was only via selection following the trials race held last month at Staffordshire University and we had 6 athletes picked to represent Staffordshire Schools at Wollaton Park, Nottingham. On the day we had 5 juniors competing as unfortunately James Fradley had to withdraw in the week preceding the championships with a chest infection – get well soon James. Alex Oakley and Rebecca Twardochleb were taking part in their first English Schools Championships, Jordan Nixon and Jacob Droogmans took part in their third successive champs, and Sophie Goodfellow in her fifth successive Champs!
It was ideal conditions that met the athletes, cool but sunny with no wind. First up was Alex Oakley in the Intermediate Girls race over 3.9km. Alex was in sixth place in the Staffordshire starting pen and set off well, but in a race of this level no-one hangs about at the start and Alex found herself towards the back of the field after the first 300m, however she soon began passing people and continued to pass one athlete after another for the rest of the race, finishing with a strong push up the last hill and a sprint down the final 400m into the finish. Alex ran really well and finished in a fine 299th position having really enjoyed her first experience of competing at this level.
The next race was the 5.7km Intermediate Boys, with Jacob Droogmans and Jordan Nixon setting off in 7th and 8th positions from the Staffordshire pen. Jacob made a good start with Jordan just 20m back after the first small lap. Partway around the next large lap Jordan worked hard and closed the gap and soon passed Jacob, with both working hard to continue passing others. Jordan continued to make the gap bigger and finished in 248th position (and sixth Staffs team counter) Jacob pushed hard again towards the last 500m and finished with a flourish to hold off the challenge from the final Staffordshire runner in 277th.
The final race where we had representation was the Senior Girls 4.2km race. Rebecca Twardochleb and Sophie Goodfellow were part of just a four lady Staffs team. Becky was first in the pen courtesy of her victory at the Staffordshire Schools Championships last month with Sophie in third place. Becky made full advantage of her position to get a great start and after the first turn was in approximately 25th position. Sophie got boxed in early on and got caught too far back after the turn. Having settled, Becky consolidated her position over the following 2 laps and finished in a fantastic 56th position. Sophie passed runners consistently to record her highest English Schools finishing position (so far) in 154th. Both Becky and Sophie ran excellently and were Staffordshire’s number 1 and 2 athletes despite (like all these juniors) being in the first year of their respective age group.
Congratulations to all five of our Junior athletes, fantastic performances all round in this national competition. Great to see the numbers of athletes from the club chosen increasing year on year, who is going to be next to get to this level when the Championships move to Norfolk?