The 109th Welsh Cross Country Championships took place in the glorious setting of Glanusk Park near Crickhowell. The Estate was picked because of its idyllic surroundings with the backdrop of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The course was designed to use all the best features of the estate which provided some great running and despite recent rainfall a relatively firm and runnable course.
The first event of the Championships was the U13 boys race, held over 3,000 metres. Luke Davies (Brecon AC) ensured that the first victory of the day went to the local club. Benji Edwards (Bridgend AC) posted a fine second with James Vincent (Cardiff AAC) third.
The girl’s equivalent was held over the same distance and saw Lucy Davies (Pembrokeshire) at the top of the podium. Abigail Fisher (Blaenau Gwent) and Isobel Dodd (Bridgend AC) took second and third in a closely contested race.
Cari Hughes was a comfortable winner of the U15 girls race
Cari Hughes (Menai) started as favourite in the U15 girl’s race, always likely to add to her growing haul of championship medals. Cari claimed her victory ahead of Heidi Davies (Brecon AC) and Jessica Bradley (Pembrokeshire Harriers).
Whenever Jake Heyward toes the line, he is never likely to be beaten and testament to his incredible talent, that certainly wasn’t going to happen on Saturday. Instead, Jake added U15 honours to his U13 title from St Fagans last year. Evan Webb (Sheffield) was the best of the rest, finishing second with Nikita Neary (Carmarthen Harriers) in third.
Iolo Hughes (Menai) didn’t leave things to chance in the U17 Men’s race by setting the early pace and extending his lead progressively as the race went on. Iolo went on to win comfortably, ahead of Ciaran Lewis (Cardiff AAC) and his club mate John Cove (Cardiff AAC). Ciaran also put daylight between himself and John who consoled himself with Bronze.
The U17 and U20 Women’s races were combined to increase the fields and began with Georgia Garner (Colwyn Bay), Kate Seary (Cardiff AAC) and Rebecca Evans (Cardiff AAC) starting as the athletes to beat in the U17 womens category. In the U20’s contest, Ffion Price (Brecon AC) looked to wrestle the title away from her twin sister Rhianwedd who was victorious last year. As the race developed the scene look set for the first upset of the day as the younger athlete led the race overall with apparent ease. Georgia was the emphatic victor of the race and was duly crowned as U17 champion. Rebecca Evans took silver in her age group with Kate in third. Sarah Livett (Menai) claimed U20 victory ahead of Ffion and Megan Withers (Pembrokeshire Harriers), who finished third.
Georgia Garner collects her gold with Rebecca Evans and Kate Seary
The U20 Men’s race was entertaining to watch as Mike Ward (Cardiff AAC), Chris Carpanini (Newport Harriers) and Josh Griffiths (Swansea Harriers) had their own battle at the head of the field. Mike is always hard to beat in a race left to the final stages and so as the trio raced together as a pack, he started to emerge as a likely victor. Joshua had the beating of Mike at the welsh Inter-regional Championships in December but along with Capanini, could do nothing to stop Mike reaching top speed on the finishing straight and taking victory ahead of Chris and Joshua who finished in that order.
Non Stanford leads Andrea Whitcombe in the Senior Womens race
The ladies race was always likely to be a contest between two Swansea Harriers. Andrea Whitcombe, had previously won the Welsh Cross Country title in 2010 and was looking to add a title here to that victory and her three English Cross Country titles gained before switching her allegiance. Non picked up her previous title at Northop in 2011 and started in Glanusk as the world U23 Triathlon Champion after picking up that accolade last summer. Both ladies knew that there main competition would come from the other athlete and set a fast early pace which saw them break clear of the rest early on. Debbie Rees (Cardiff AAC) was champion in 2009 and tracked the leading pair tirelessly. Further back Sian Edwards (Swansea Harriers) and Alaw Beynon-Thomas (Swansea Harriers) changed positions before settling in that order. As the leaders approached the finish, the tempo noticeably increased with both athlete hungry for their second title. It was Andrea that used the final hill to pull away from the youthfull Non. Modest Andrea later said of her victory ‘’I’m pleased to win and honestly thought Non would beat me’’. Debbie was comfortably clear in third but could do nothing to steer team victory away from a dominant Swansea Harriers team.
Phil Matthews leads the mens race
Dewi Griffiths (Swansea Harriers) made the trip to Glanusk Park as the defending champion and as favourite despite feeling below par in recent weeks due to illness and exam preparations. The Harrier had a strong team behind him which included Phil Matthews (Swansea Harriers) and Marc Hobbs (Swansea Harriers) among others. Ian Mitchell started as a twice former champion and knew that he was steadily returning to the form needed to cause an upset. Rowan Axe (Cardiff AAC) had been tagged as a serious contender following a fine fourth place at the recent British University Cross Country Championships and along with Jon Hopkins (Cardiff AAC) was hoping to lead his to team to overall victory.
The leading group that appeared on the first small lap included all of those athletes and as the race progressed a gap started to appear behind them. Coming into the final half of the race Matthews led with Ian and Dewi in close order. Dewi started to loose contact with the leading duo, however Dewi usually proves un-beatable on the country and was determined to claw back the leaders. He soon had the breakaway covered and took to the front in time to replicate Andrea’s use of the final hill, stealing victory from Mitchell and Matthews who battled hard to finish in that order.
Despite two Swansea Harriers finishing on the podium, they could do little to prevent Cardiff AAC from taking their team crown through their strength in depth and prominent fifth and sixth scorers.
Pictures courtesy of Gwynfor James can be found here.