Southern intercounties, 7 December.

Eleven of our younger gladiators were part of the Oxfordshire squad. The southern region is of course very large but here it’s mostly the stronger counties that tend to take part. Consequently, although the fields don’t often exceed 100 competitors, the standard throughout is extremely high. This year was no exception, with a continuous stream of athletes in serious combat all the way to the finish – invaluable experience before we get to the bigger championship stuff in the next month or two.

Under-13s

Evey Powell kicked off things for us with another great run in 22nd, right in the thick of it as 10 seconds covered 12 girls. There was some strong running too from Connor Morgan – after some paid for an overly-enthusiastic start he forged his way through to 72nd.

Under-15s

The girls were first up and Olivia Martin was always near the front before making a long strike for home with around 400m or so remaining. Entering the final straight however her lead was cut as her Sussex rival mounted a fast and furious attack. At the line, Olivia got the verdict with a dip finish (yes, you read that right, and after 4km of tough cross country) – terrific racing from both girls. Tilly Westbrook was another locked in battle to the very end, finishing a fine 15th as 3 seconds covered 6 girls. On to the lads and both Monty Grewal and Harry Richards were having their first taste of competition at this level – a veritable baptism of fire. After running together early on, Monty pulled away to finish 66th, with Harry 5 places but only 10 seconds behind.

Under-17s

Kie Francis was our only representative in the men's race, finishing 75th. For the women, however, we supplied 50% of the team. Mieke Bedlington led Oxfordshire home in 41st with Rosie Mullins just 5 seconds and 2 places back after having to produce a storming finish to hold off her Surrey opponent. After sustaining spike wounds and knee injuries just a few days earlier at Cirencester, it was good to see Georgie Halfhead able to line up and complete the Oxfordshire scorers in 52nd. Beth Darwent endured a severe bout of stitch as she completed the day for us in 57th.

Compete and cogitate

However experienced we are, every race is a learning process to a greater or lesser extent, though rarely more so than in this event. A first-class day of quality racing once again and safe to say all of our athletes fully justified their selection, well done everyone. Finally, a big vote of thanks to Team Manager Ros Kelling (Banbury Harriers) for all the hard work both beforehand and on the day itself.