On Saturday 22nd September the best young mountain running talent from Britain and Ireland gathered in Melmerby, Cumbria for the Junior Home International Championships. For the first time ever, this year's event was uphill only. The Wales squad included five athletes making their mountain running debuts alongside their more experienced team mates.
The Welsh U16 / U18 teams pictured at Melmerby.
First race off was the U16 Girls. This race was dominated by Annabel Mason (England) who earlier this season won the European Junior Mountain Running Championship for Great Britain. Annabel won by more than a minute ahead of her team mate Bronwen Owen who was nearly a minute ahead of 3rd. First home for Wales was Georgia Garner (Colwyn Bay AC) in an excellent 7th place. Next in was Bronwen Jenkinson (Eryri Harriers) on her debut in a Welsh vest in 9th. She was followed home by two more new faces to the mountain running team Alex Cawthra (Maldwyn Harriers) 17th and Cari Harries (Aberystwyth University
Harriers) 19th. The girls finished 4th in the team competition.
The U16 Boys race was a more open affair with only 26 seconds between 1st and 3rd at the finish. Iolo Hughes (Menai Track & Field) was always in contention but at the finish did not quite have the legs to catch James Hall (England) however he did manage to hold off Liam Fitzpatrick (Ireland) and earn himself an excellent silver. Ciaran Lewis (Cardiff AC) had a strong run for 10th. The team was brought home by North Wales rivals Jacob Griffith (Colwyn Bay AC) 17th and Louie Bennett (Menai Track & Field) 18th who have been swapping places all season. With Ciaran on his first appearance in the team and Louie on his Welsh debut, the boys finished 4th in the team event.
Ffion Price (Brecon AC) lined up in the U18 Women's race looking to become the first athlete to win a clean sweep in this event of four titles in four years. Despite looking very nervous at the start she did not disappoint and led from the gun to take the win by 46 seconds from Halina Rees (Scotland) 2nd and her twin sister Rhianwedd 3rd.
With Rebecca Evans (Cardiff AC) 11th and Megan Withers (Pembrokeshire Harriers) 12th the girls took team gold ahead of England.
Last junior race was the U18 Men. Where the other three junior races had been over 4.3km, the under 18 men ran 6.3km. Who is that coming over the hill! Non other than a very determined Nathan Jones (Colwyn Bay AC) who managed to hold off Killian Mooney (Ireland) by just eight seconds to take the U18 title. Returning to form after his stress fracture earlier this year was Lloyd Heckler (Carmarthen Harriers) in 5th. Bringing home another cracking team performance was Gwynant Jones (Maldwyn Harriers) 10th and Sam Longville (Cardiff AC) 15th to earn the boys team gold.
So in an event where Wales have only ever won three team titles, U18M in 1996, U16B in 2004, and U18W in 2007, the team came away with two team golds, two individual golds, one silver and one bronze. What's more, Wales have the first ever individual to take four titles. A superb team performance!
Report by Steve Livett.