The magnificent grounds of Wollaton Park, Nottingham, were the venue for what is, for cross-country runners, the most important race of the season, and they provided a setting worthy of such an event. Fortunately the weather was bright for the junior races (sorry seniors), though there was a chilly wind. Conditions underfoot were generally good, though every runner had to negotiate the infamous water splash at least once.
The Club was represented in all of the races bar the Junior Men, even though the representation was a little thin in places.
After Vicki Merrick, who aggravated a back injury whilst negotiating the aforesaid water splash, was forced to pull out of the opening race, it was left to Joseph Carnelley to open proceedings for the Club, finishing in 312th position.
It is always a pleasure to see runners who have left to study at university turn up at these events in Club colours, and Sarah Dewhirst, in the Junior Women’s race, had a fine run in 106th place.
In the largest junior field of the day, Holly Walters, who has now competed in the Big Three in her very first season, battled through to finish in 438th.
It was such a pity that we did not have a fourth counter in the U17 Men’s race since the three that did compete ran so well: Matthew Merrick set off with a really positive attitude and showed that he getting back to his best with an impressive finish in 39th position; Reuben Mantle, in his first year in this age-group, battled through to 117th; and Josh Spencer had his best run yet in 277th position.
In the U15 Girls, both Ruby Firth and Emily Field performed splendidly: Ruby displayed her usual battling qualities to finish in 133rd, while Emily, who had missed a good deal of training due to a toe injury, was only seconds behind in 138th.
For the juniors, the afternoon finished, as last year, on a high point, with the performance of our U13 Boys. Once again, as they have done all season, they achieved a team position – 30th out of 48 teams – but there were also some fine individual performances. Pride of place must go to Alex Flaherty who finished in a superlative 7th position – the best individual performance in the National by a junior that I have witnessed in my time as team-manager. He was ably supported by Ben Rees in 259th, Samuel Mantle in 297th, and Oliver Peace in 300th.
Congratulations to all of those who ran, thanks to all the parents and supporters, amongst whom was our Club President John Smithurst, and a huge thank you to Graham Smith for getting me through the day.