Southern Inter-counties, Horspath, 8 December.

Eleven of our athletes formed part of the Oxfordshire squad that took part in this event, which involves all women's age groups together with Under-13, Under-15 and Under-17 men. As in previous years, numbers in each race were typically around 100, but the meeting tends to attract the strongest counties in the region and the sheer quality throughout all of these fields is seriously impressive. The younger age groups compete over their full championship distances and also get to race in large, tight and fiercely competitive groups of people – not something that happens very often on a local level and invaluable experience for the bigger stuff coming up after Yuletide.

Under 13 girls

The Under-13 girls were first up, with Evey Powell making her debut in a county vest. Evey is improving with every race just now and here led in the Oxfordshire team in an excellent 49th (111 finished). As a measure of the quality in depth, she finished in a bunch where 5 seconds covered 8 girls. Connor Morgan was also making his county debut in the Under-13 lads and showed that he fully deserved his selection when finishing 106th – a big step up.

Under 15 girls

Olivia Martin was on next in the Under-15 girls, finishing 21st and also leading Oxfordshire in. This was a classic example of “it’s not over ‘til it’s over” as she stormed past a stack of athletes on the final run-in, upstaging Evey in the process as 10 girls were within 5 seconds. Georgie Halfhead was 77th and 3rd scorer.

Under 17 men and under 13 women

An admin error by the organisers (not our hardworking team manager) meant that positions for our Under-17 men still need to be clarified, but Alex Pennington was in the thick of the action and with back-up from Kie Francis, Alfie Clay and Tom Miller we supplied 50% of the county team. Illness took out 2 of our Under-17 women, but there was another solid performance from Izzie Jones in 92nd.

Under 20 women

The Under-20 women competed alongside their senior counterparts, and so lined up with a smattering of internationals, including former national champion Louise Damen. Cordy Halfhead (24th U20) and Chloe Ridewood (28th) were both in the scoring quartet, and the ever-dependable Katharine Harris rounded the day off for Abingdon in 48th.

A tough day

As we expected, this was a tough day at the office for all of our athletes – one of the most competitive races on the cross country calendar. Every race is a learning process and never more so than today. A big thanks to the organisers, marshals and officials and especially to our imperturbable county team manager Ros Kelling of Banbury Harriers.