Set against the magnificent backdrop of the snow covered Brecon Beacons the 54th running of the Schools Cross Country Championships took place in difficult and challenging underfoot conditions at Brecon’s Penlan Arena. The event was blessed with good weather conditions on the day and, although cold, the rain which has become a permanent feature over recent months stayed away allowing for the 8 race programme to proceed unaffected.
The traditional 1pm start time saw the Junior Girls race start the day’s event. The first victory going to Mia Roberts (Brynhyfryd, North East Wales) by a comfortable 28 second margin from team-mate Orla Davies (Mold Alun), the battle for the bronze was between Caitlin Gwyther and Eluned King (both Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr & Afan Nedd Tawe), with Caitlin just edging out her team mate, missing out on the individual medal was eased by the consolation of team gold as Afan Nedd Tawe took the team event, from North East Wales in second and South East Wales third.
The next race saw the Year 8 and 9 boys battle it out for the Junior Boys title. This proved to be the closest and most competitive race of the day with only 15 seconds covering the top 6. A heavy fall on the last lap may well have cost Osian Perrin (Llangefni, Eryri) victory as Nathan Jones (Bishopston, Afan Nedd Tawe) just edged it by 1 second to take gold, behind them James Penrose (Wyclif, South East Wales), Mike Spill (Friars, Eryri) and the Glamorgan Valleys pairing of Joseph Reardon (Rhydywaun) and Daniel John (Gartholwg) were similarly close in their battle for the last medal with James Penrose just taking the honours. The team prize went to Eryri with Glamorgan Valleys just beating Dyfed to the silver.
For the first time the Senior races also incorporated the Welsh Colleges Championships, first up were the girls and it was no surprise to see 2 familiar faces open up a significant gap from the start. Heidi Davies (Llandindod High, Powys) and Cari Hughes (Syr Thomas Jones, Eryri) were the pre-race favourites but it was Cari who eventually took victory over her rival. Bethan Evans (Y Pant, Glamorgan Valleys) took bronze, with Bethan Harries (Gower College, Afan Nedd Tawe) picking up the Colleges title as she finished 5th. overall, Phoebe Marsden (Coleg Gwent, South East Wales) took second and Amy Carter (Coleg Sir Gar, Dyfed) took third.
Jacob Reynolds (Cwm Rhymni, Glamorgan Valleys) was the next race winner as he took the Year 7 title from Iori Humphreys (Pembroke, Dyfed) and Huw Riley (Radyr, Cardiff & the Vale) who narrowly beat another Dyfed athlete Liam Edwards (Bro Myrddin) to the bronze. Team prizes went to Dyfed (Gold) with Cardiff & the Vale and North East Wales making up the minor places.
In the Year 7 Girls event it was Cardiff & the Vale taking the team honours from South East Wales and North East Wales, however the individual event was dominated by Dyfed and Eryri athletes, with Daisy Thompson (Bro Myrddin, Dyfed) taking the spoils ahead of Samia Jones (Syr Huw Owen, Eryri) with another Dyfed athlete, Phoebe Davies (Bro Dinefwr) completing the medallists.
Christian Lovatt (Coleg Sir Gar, Dyfed) started the Senior Boys race as defending champion and favourite. However Ciaran Lewis (St David’s College, Cardiff & the Vale) clearly had other ideas and an effective race plan as he took a comfortable victory ahead of Christian Smth (Coleg Cambria, North East Wales), and Matthew Williams (Milford Haven, Dyfed). The much improved Ashraf Liles (Dyffryn Aman, Dyfed), pushed Christian Lovatt down to fifth where he had to settle for bronze in the colleges event behind Ciaran and Christian Smith.
Next up were the Middle Girls and this race provided an opportunity for another much improved athlete to confirm her potential. Carys Bill (Plasmawr, Cardiff & the Vale) did not disappoint as she took her first WSAA title from the more established Abi Fisher (Crickhowell, Powys) and Abbie Williams (Pembroke, Dyfed). Abbie also led the Dyfed team to their third team award of the day as they pushed Cardiff & the Vale into second and the favourites Glamorgan Valleys down to third.
Traditionally, it is the Middle Boys who get last use of the course in the Schools programme and by the time their race got underway the course was badly cut up and becoming more difficult as each lap unfolded. Difficult conditions suit big race performers and it was Oliver Barbaresi (Friars, Eryri) who battled through to take this race, Dominic Smith (Olchfa, Afan Nedd Tawe) just holding off Joe Crutchley(Llanidloes, Powys) to take silver. This time it was Afan Nedd Tawe who took the team plaudits narrowly edging out Eryri and Powys.
The overall team championship again went to Dyfed, but it was Eryri pushing them all the way a on this occasion not the traditional superpower of Cardiff & the Vale. A huge “thank you” goes out to all who officiated, volunteered, ran or supported on the day. Another great day of WSAA competition.
WSAA Support Officer