Dewi Griffiths (Swansea Harriers) and Jess Judd (Chelmsford Harriers) secured Cross Challenge wins in Cardiff on Sunday.
The Fourth meeting in the 2016/2017 British Athletics Cross Challenge Series included the Celtic Cross Country International, A Senior International, Schools Invitation races and the Welsh University Cross Country Championships.
Cool but dry conditions welcomed athletes to the fast and flat course where previous winners included Callum Hawkins (Kilbarchan), Andy Vernon (Aldershot, Farnham & district) and Charlotte Purdue (Aldershot, Farnham & District).
The start of the U23 / Senior Men's race. (Pic by Paul Stillman)
The Swansea Harrier has enjoyed a great last twelve months which have seen him clock up pb’s over almost every distance and take the prestigious Inter-Counties and British Championships title at the Cross Challenge final in Birmingham last March. The proud Welshman is a five times Welsh Cross Country Champion and always a great supporter of local races. He took to the start line highly confident of repeating his victory from twelve months ago.
As the race unfolded it was clear that he was unlikely to be stopped as he gradually increased the pace and stretched out his competitors on the large lap of Blackweir Fields.
Griffiths victory came 13 seconds ahead of fellow Swansea Harrier Kristian Jones who was unable to match Griffith’s pace in the closing stages despite taking some of his course records at local races over the Christmas period and securing the Scottish Inter-District title in Edinburgh, two weeks ago.
Dewi Griffiths defended his title from 2016. (Pic by Glennsports)
Jones’ delight was clear as he continues a recent improvement of form which was kick started by a 29.31 clocking at the Leeds Abbey Dash where he finished ahead of Griffiths for the first time.
Donald Carter (Tonbridge) got the better of Matt Clowes (Cardiff AAC) and Owain Jones (Bristol & West AC) with the trio finishing in that order, giving Carter possibly his notable performance of his career to date.
Griffiths spoke about his triumph saying ‘’I made an honest race of it early on and could see Kris going back slightly on the third lap so I had to just keep pushing. The distance (ahead) at the end probably flatters me.”
Jessica Judd competed at last year’s event finishing fourth but this time around, led the women’s race from start to finish. Irish Olympian Maria McCambridge was the only athlete that tried to stay with the Chelmsford Harrier on the first lap before losing touch.
Ockenden (Swansea Harriers) worked her way through the chasing group to finish in second ahead of Shona Heaslip, the current irish Cross Country Champion. Next home was her compatriot McCambridge who’s marathon pedigree gives her great strength on the country.
Nicole Roberts (Birchfield Harriers) was fifth on Sunday following a solid second place at the Famous Nos Galan Road Races on New Year’s Eve.
Judd was second at the European Cross Country Junior Championships in 2014. She spoke of her Cardiff victory saying ““It’s really nice to be at the front again but it is hard to pace it. I felt comfortable until probably the last 500 metres. I was really starting to struggle around that final loop. But I’ve worked really hard for that so I am really happy to win’’.
Hugo Milner (Derby AC) scored an emphatic victory in the U20 Men’s race, turning the tables on Jonathon Shields (Sheffield & Dearne) who was first home in Antrim with Milner second and had finished ahead of him when both athletes represented Great Britain & Northern Ireland at the Great Edinburgh Cross Country International. Shields was next home just seconds clear of Fearghal Curtin (Ireland) and the Antrim fourth placer, Sol Sweeney (Perth Strathtay).
Anna Macfadyen (Forres) was pleased with her maiden Cross Challenge victory which came in the U20 Women’s race. Cari Hughes (Menai Track & Field) has won in Cardiff twice before and was last year’s U17 Inter-Counties Champion. She was however unable to match the pace of Macfadyen, finishing third this time. The pair were split by of Anna Rose-Farrell in the green of Ireland.
Darragh McElhinney took the U17 Men’s title with English Schools Champion Matthew Willis (Wrexham AAC) taking the runner-up spot a week after victory in Antrim. Willis is also the current SIAB Schools Champion and a previous winner in Liverpool.
Ireland’s Sarah Healy took the Celtic title and outright victory in the U17 women’s race ahead of Hannah Hobbs (Westbury Harriers).
English Schools Champion Harris Mier (Cornwall AC) snatched victory from Mohamed Ali (Hillingdon) in the final stages after a fight to the line in the U15 Boys event.
Lily-Jane Evans-Haggerty (Victoria Park City of Glasgow) followed up on a win in Antrim with the same feat in Cardiff, this time edging Shannon Flockart (Hunts AC) into the second spot in the U15 Girls race.
Alexander Thompson (Wharfedale Harriers) took victory at Liverpool in November and headed the U13 Boys finishers in Cardiff ahead of Joseph Currie (Chesterfield & District) and his Wharfedale clubmate Sam Smith in third.
Anna Hedley (Fife) remains unbeaten in the U13 Girls category of the 2016/2017 Series after another win on Sunday.
Full results can be found here.