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Witton Park XC event report

Thank you to both Cathy Flitcroft and Marian Hesketh for their work on this report and also sharing it with the LEP

On a sunny but frosty 6th January, over 50 Preston Harriers pulled on their club vests to compete in the Lancashire Cross Country Championships at Witton Park, Blackburn with over 350 other athletes.

With qualification for automatic selection to represent Lancashire at the Inter-Counties event in March on offer this was a strong field of athletes across all age groups.

The course itself was a challenging one with plenty of mud, hills and very heavy going underfoot with distances ranging from 1.8 kilometers for U11s to 9.8 kilometers for the Senior Men.

First race of the day was the U11 boys who delivered a 2nd team place position for Preston giving a great start to the day. Henry Taylor being first Preston finisher in 6th, followed by Nathaniel White (14), Harry Griffin (16) and Billy Woodruff (25). The squad was also supported by Charlie Benson and Alexander Baines.

U11 girls followed, with just one runner from Preston in this age group, Isabel Owers finishing a strong 5th.

Next up were the U13s boys and girls and what a spectacular performance from these youngsters.  

Samuel Bates ran an amazing race finishing 1st with Albert Yates hot on his heels, just 2 secs behind in 2nd. This helped the boys take a convincing 1st U13 team victory along with Jack Turner (5th) and Jack Mawdsley (10th). Other squad members being Ethan Bone, Freddy Cheyne, Dylan Parker and Charlie Woodruff.

Not to be outdone the U13 girls also took home 1st team prize with first Harrier across the line being Ellie Blackhurst in a storming 3rd place with Elsie McKeever (4th), I Thompson-Amrith (8) and Georgina Benson (16) completing the team. The squad was also supported by Grace Taylor finishing just 1 sec behind Georgina.

It was the turn of the U15s next with impressive running in the boys race by Tom Jepson (8), Hugh Smith (9) and Lucas Parkin (22). Meanwhile in the Girls U15 race, a tremendous run from Sophie Mitchell was evident to secure her 3rd spot with Lillie-May McCarthy finishing in 13th.

The U17s stepped up next and another 1st team position was secured after a dominating 1st and 2nd finish from Matthew Clark and Myles Fraser, followed up by Gordon Ballantyne (12). Thomas Bates also running strong to support the squad. 

And there was more to come, with Zara Darkin crossing the line in 1st position taking the U17 title in a convincing victory with Holly Moffatt pushing to the line in 9th.

The next race of the day combined the Ladies U20s, Seniors, Veterans and the Mens 70+ age categories and what a race this was with just 3 seconds separating the first 3 finishers.

Emma McColm continued in the good form evident at the Mid Lancs XC league. Running in her first cross country season since giving birth last year to her daughter Olivia she was crowned Lancashire County Champion, fulfilling a lifetime dream. She was followed by Libby Huxley 3rd (U20), Kirsty Maher 5th (U20) and Jamie Robinson 6th (F35) - making for a convincing team victory. With Jamie also being joined by Nicola Sutton (F35) and Catherine Mitchell (F45) to take 2nd Vets team.

Breaking down the results per age category the Ladies came away with a number of well deserved individual medals also.

U20s - Libby Huxley - Silver, Kirsty Maher - Bronze

Senior Ladies - Emma McColm - Gold, Jamie Robinson - Bronze

Vet 35 - Jamie Robinson - Gold, Nicola Sutton - Silver

Vet 60 - Cathy Flitcroft - Silver

And also.....Vet 70 (Men) - Alan Appleby - Bronze

Other squad members not mentioned above but who gave vital support were Charlotte Gregory, Nicola Foster, Julie Tyrer, Sue Wickham and not forgetting Michael McLoughlin.

The final race of the day was to be the Senior Mens, the biggest field of runners, incorporating U20 men and Veteran men and they did not disappoint. Both Senior and U20 teams coming away with 3rd place in the team events.

Senior Men's team comprised, Max Cunningham who was 1st harrier across the line in 9th, followed by Rob Danson (17) in his first outing as a Preston Harrier since joining the club, Wes Wilkinson (27), Luke Suffolk U20 (35) and Billy Reid U20 (38).

For the U20s team it was Luke 1st home (9), followed by Billy (11) and Max Holden (12)

In terms of individual medals it was David Lea who romped home in 1st place in V60 category to take gold and this Vets category title.

The following squad members also played a key part: Jenson Warren U20, Gareth Fairclough V45, John Rainford V60, Brendan Pugh V55, Chris Wales V50, George McLaughlin V65 and Michael Brown V65.

Overall, a fantastic day of racing from all athletes and congratulations to:

- The Mitchell family. Sophie U15 coming away with a bronze in the individual race with Mum Catherine coming away with a Silver as part of the Vets team. A double celebration for the family!

- Jamie Robinson who came away with 4 Lancashire medals for her part in the Senior and Vet categories picking up individual and team medals in both.

- The 14 Harriers who earned County vests

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