Report from the English National Cross Country.

Seventeen Abingdon AC athletes competed in the seasons premier cross country, the English National or just ‘The National’ this weekend at Wollaton Park in Nottingham. The undulating course was particularly tough this year, with athletes literally sinking into the soft mud on some parts of the course following the recent wet weather.

Juniors

First up were the U17 Women. Run over 5k, the finishing times gave a good indication of early conditions with most athletes 3 or 4 minutes outside of the times they ran a few weeks earlier at the tough Parliament Hill course. Georgie Halfhead finished strongly in 118th (25:47) with Mieke Bedlington two seconds behind in 123rd (25:49) out of 257 finishers. Kie Francis was 158th out of 286 finishers in the U17 Men’s race in a time of 26:55 over the 6k course.

357 athletes finished in the U13 Girls race. Moving through the field on the second lap Isabelle Martin finished strongly in 13th with Evey Powell in 133rd. In the U13 Boys race, Connor Morgan finished 296th out of 384 competitors.

In the U15 Girls race, after a cautious start, Olivia Martin moved through the field on the second lap to gain another top ten finish, finishing 7th with Tilly Westbrook also high up the field in 57th place out of 390 finishers.

For many of our junior athletes, this was the first of four cross country races in four weekends, with the League fixture, UK inter-counties and English Schools to come. A good winter’s work including Saturday mornings on the slopes of Ardington Woods and Wittenham Clumps have them well prepared for the challenges over the next four weeks.

Seniors

By the time the senior races started the course had deteriorated with some sections of the course more like quicksand than soft mud. Calum Steer (44th) and Alex Pennington (133rd) completed the 10k Junior Men course.

In 2018 Cordelia Parker became the first Abingdon AC female athlete to achieve a top 100 finish in the National, repeating the achievement last year in Leeds. Cordy made it three out of three, finishing 93rd out of the 911 finishers in the Senior Women's race. There were 1710 finishers in the Senior Men’s race with Aric Klukowski finishing inside an hour in 58:11 in 720th, followed by Jon Bones (1494th), Adrian Francis (1585th) and David Morgan (1633rd).

Contrasts

Last year the National was held at Harewood Hall in Leeds. That course had a lot of long hills but on a warm day, the grass circuit remained firm and good to run on. This year the soggy ground was tough from the start and got more and more difficult for the athletes. You never quite know what conditions you will get, so huge congratulations to all of our athletes who all really got fully stuck into the races. Next year’s National will be in the south so it is likely to be at Parliament Hill where we can look forward to another tough but always very rewarding day.

Thanks

Once again thanks to Jon Bones, who was first on the course getting the tent up before everyone else arrived so that all of our athletes and their support crews had a welcome base and shelter from the blustery wind.