For the top schools’ cross-country runners in Wales, all roads lead to Brecon next Saturday, February 25th, when the Penlan playing fields are the venue for the Aviva Welsh Schools’ National cross-country championships.
This will be the fiftieth time for the event to be staged, and the eleventh consecutive year that the fixture has been held at Brecon.
Some exciting races are anticipated, particularly in the junior and middle sections, in which selection for the teams to compete at the SIAB schools international at Strathallan, Perth, on March 31st is at stake.
Unusually, there are no defending champions this year but there are a number of intriguing questions involving past winners, which will be answered by the end of Saturday afternoon, including:
- Can Megan Withers (Dyfed), the middle winner in 2010 and 2011, and Olivia Gwynn (Afan Nedd Tawe), junior champion for the last two years, extend their unbeaten run to three titles with victory on their debut in the senior and middle races respectively?
- Can Ffion Price (Powys) add a senior victory to her previous wins in the junior (2008) and middle (2009) races?
- Can Rebecca Evans (Glamorgan Valleys) emulate mum Melanie, winner in South Glamorgan colours on the Newtown (Trehafren) course in 1983, by winning the middle girls’ title?
- Can one of the two most recent middle boys’ champions – Morgan Davies (Glamorgan Valleys, 2010) and Elliot Slade (Cardiff & the Vale, 2011) – claim the senior title and, similarly, can either Jack Gooch (Cardiff & the Vale, 2010) or Lewis Jones (Glamorgan Valleys, 2011) – the last two junior boys’ winners – make the step up and strike gold in the middle boys’ race?
- Can any of the five past Year 7 champions entered – Christian Lovatt (Dyfed, 2009), Nikita Neary (Dyfed, 2010), Jake Heyward (Cardiff & the Vale, 2011), Rosa Yates (Glamorgan Valleys, 2010), and Seren Allin (Cardiff & the Vale, 2011) – claim a win in an older age group.
The action starts at 1 pm with the senior girls' race, for sixth formers. If she is on the start line, the undoubted favourite will be Ffion Price (Powys, 701) but the Llandrindod year 13 can expect a tough test from her twin, Rhianwedd (712), Sarah Livett (Eryri, 407) and Megan Withers (Dyfed, 301).
Mention has been made of Morgan Davies (Glamorgan Valleys, 513) and Elliot Slade (Cardiff & the Vale, 215) in terms of the senior title, but they are not in the same form as when they recorded their middle wins, and that provides an incentive for other contenders – the Cardiff & the Vale duo of Matthew Edwards (214) and Mike Ward (219) and the Dyfed pairing of Josh Griffiths (314) and Lloyd Heckler (315) – to grasp the opportunity and claim a first victory at this event.
Rosa Yates (Glamorgan Valleys, 531) was narrowly beaten by Olivia Gwynn last year for the junior (years 8 & 9) race last year but she may find the opposition even tougher this time. Included in the field are the u14 and the u16 winners - Cari Hughes (Eryri, 425) and Heidi Davies (Powys, 726) respectively - from last November’s Inter Schools’ championships on the same course, plus a talented trio of year 9 pupils – Mollie Davies (Eryri, 426) and the Dyfed duo of Caitlin Page (326) and Ffion Quan (330) – while the year 8 challenge will come from Seren Allin (Cardiff & the Vale, 229), Bethan Evans, (Glamorgan Valleys, 525) and Jessica Bradley (Dyfed, 325).
Bangor-based John Spill (Eryri, 437) was the top placed year 8 boy in last year’s junior boys’ National. He finished eighth, with Nikita Neary (Dyfed, 337) and Tyler Pritchard (South East Wales, 837) also featuring in the top twelve places. That trio are likely to head the year 9 contingent this time while Jake Heyward (Cardiff & the Vale, 240), Marinus Petersen (Dyfed, 338) and Tom Acreman (Glamorgan Valleys, 538) look to be the in-form year 8 boys who might make an impact on the top placings.
Performances by pupils from Glamorgan Valleys caught the eye in the year 7 schools’ races at the McCain Cardiff Cross Challenge in January.
In the girls’ event, Molly Rees (551) was the leading Welsh finisher, taking third place, while the district has two more strong contenders in Holli Jehu (549) and Isobel Dodd (554). Benjamin Edwards (561) was the winner of the boys’ race at Blackweir, with his Glamorgan Valleys team-mate Evan Williams (567) in fifth place while the Afan Nedd Tawe duo of Elliot Lawrence (161) and Sam Martin (163) were respectively third and sixth.
All seven pupils will be looking for a high placing in their respective races.
After her performance in the joint u17/u20 race at St Fagan’s last weekend, Rebecca Evans (Glamorgan Valleys, 574) will be the pre-race favourite for the middle (years 10 & 11) girls’ title but she can expect a stern test from the Afan Nedd Tawe trio of Lara Philippart (174), Olivia Gwynn (173) and Elin Davies (175), plus Malika Rezougui (South East Wales, 873), Georgia Garner (Eryri, 473), Alex Cawthra (Powys, 773) and the Dyfed duo of Caitlin Thompson (376) and Rhian Homer (374).
Two Afan Nedd Tawe athletes are likely to feature at the head of the field in the final race of the day, for middle boys. The top year 11 this winter has been Connor Davies (186) while his year 10 team-mate Jac Hopkins (185) has been hugely impressive in under 15 races. Of the other year 11 boys, both Jack Gooch (Cardiff & the Vale, 293) and James Hunt (Glamorgan Valleys, 586) will be looking for a top placing while a clutch of year 10 pupils – Christian Lovatt (Dyfed, 385), Iolo Hughes (Eryri, 486), Lewis Jones (Glamorgan Valleys, 585) and the Cardiff & the Vale duo of Ciaran Lewis (289) and John Cove (286) – have the ability to make an impact.
Dyfed are firm favourites to claim the lion’s share of the eight team titles, and to regain the overall points’ trophy, which they surprisingly shared last year.
1. 1.00 pm Senior Girls 4.8 km
2. 1.25 pm Senior Boys 6.4 km
3. 1.50 pm Junior Girls 3.3 km
4. 2.10 pm Junior Boys 4.3 km
5. 2.30 pm Year 7 Girls 2.8 km
6. 2.40 pm Year 7 Boys 2.8 km
7. 2.50 pm Middle Girls 4.3 km
8. 3.10 pm Middle Boys 5.7 km
The post code for Penlan is LD3 9SR.
Event programmes will be on sale in the pavilion, price £3.
Parking at the Penlan track is for officials and first aid only. Spectator parking is at Brecon High school.
INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMME AND SELECTION OF WELSH SCHOOLS’ TEAMS
Teams representing Welsh Schools’ teams will be competing at three fixtures in the next eight weeks:
The U20 Cross-Country International Match
The Senior teams will be competing in a full international match at Rouken Park, Glasgow, Scotland, on Sunday, March 18th. Teams, of six athletes, will be selected.
The two races are included in the Home Countries International involving England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland, and may be over longer distances than those used in our championships.
Subject to availability, only the winner of the Senior races at today’s National championships will be automatically selected for this fixture.
The AVIVA SIAB Schools’ u15 & U17 Cross-Country International
The Middle and Junior Teams will be competing in the annual SIAB Schools’ international, to be held at Strathallan School, Perth, Scotland, on Saturday, March 31st. Teams of eight athletes will be selected in each age group. The opposition will be the best eight pupils from English Schools, Scottish Schools and All-Ireland Schools.
Subject to availability, only the winner of the Junior and Middle races at today’s National championships will be automatically selected for this fixture.
In 2013, this event will be hosted by Welsh Schools at Dinefwr Park, Llandeilo.
Virgin Money Giving Mini London Marathon
For the tenth year, Welsh Schools has been invited to compete at the Mini London Marathon, which will be held on Sunday, April 22nd in 2012. The competition uses UK Athletics cross country age groups at u13 (years 7 & 8), u15 (years 9 & 10) and u17 (Years 11 & 12). Teams, of six athletes, will be selected for the three age groups. Selection will be based on performances at a series of fixtures, starting from the Welsh Schools Inter Schools championships last November.
A cross-country selection meeting will be convened at Brecon at the end of the Championships on Saturday, February 25th. All eight District associations are entitled to have one voting representative present at this meeting. The business of this meeting will be the selection of the Welsh Schools teams to compete at the Home Countries International Match and the AVIVA SIAB Schools’ International.
Nomination for an Absent Athlete
Sometimes, athletes are unavoidably absent from our championships. If there is a valid reason for the absence, and the athlete is a potential member of an international team, their District may make a submission on behalf of the athlete. That submission must be made by a District representative to the International Secretary, Mr Dai Gatehouse, by 12.45 pm on the day of the Championships.