THEY could not match last year’s historic medal-winning feat, but Vale Royal Athletics Club still had reason to be cheerful following the English National Cross Country Championships at the weekend.
Two of their youngest entrants shone on their debut at the annual event, with Grace Roberts and Holly Weedall finishing in 11th and 12th place respectively in the under 13s girls’ race at Wollaton Park.
They battled each other for the length of a 3km race in a field of more than 450, most of them older, girls to register the mid Cheshire outfit’s best results.
“It’s their first year racing in that particular age group,” said coach Shaun McGrath.
“With that in mind, there is plenty to be optimistic about for next year – they both ran a tremendous race.”
The duo were the highest-ranked northern athletes in the category.
Vale Royals' Holly Weedall, left, prepares to negotiate a water crossing during the under 13s girls' race at Wollaton Park on Saturday. Picture: Bryan Dale/Race Photos
Another to celebrate a top 20 finish was Holly Smith, who crossed the line 15th in the under 15s girls’ race.
Vale Royal’s Francesca Harris and Lucy Smith, Holly’s twin, classified inside the top 40.
Matthew Sheen, who has enjoyed a fine winter, led the club’s junior men to fifth in the team standings after he reached the finish in 27th position.
Cameron Weaver, Jacob Brown and Nathan Williams completed a line-up that registered the best collective result of the afternoon.
In 2016, Vale Royals’ senior women won a bronze medal.
They took ninth spot this time around, led by Sarah Murphy.
Kate Spilsbury, Jodie Spencer-Thompson and Kate Titlow followed her, leaving them third of the northern teams taking part.
There was disappointment for the under 17s boys, who lost Ben Lee to an injury when he was caught by a rival’s spike at the water crossing on the opening lap.
Harry Dexter pulled out after being taken ill, leaving them short of counters.
Arun Dight came home in 29th.
McGrath added: “It was one of those weekends in some respects. But bad luck and injuries affect every team.
“It was our turn this time.”
Results (selected Vale Royal AC athletes only)
Saucony English National Cross Country Championships
Saturday, February 25
Wollaton Park, Nottingham
Senior men (12km): 208. Oliver Williams 45.04; 693. James Griffiths 51.25; 729. Gareth Williams 51.50; 1440. Geoff Fawkes 1:02.11; 1502. John Clarke 1:03.54; 1653. Colin Rathbone 1:09.42; 1690. Richard Pettitt 1:11.40. Teams: 103. Vale Royal AC 6225pts.
Senior women (8km): 58. Sarah Murphy 32.23; 84. Kate Spilsbury 33.04; 106. Jodie Spencer 33.50; 108. Kate Titlow 33.52; 145. Sarah Griffiths 34.58; 769. Carole Williams 57.35. Teams: 9. Vale Royal AC 356pts.
Junior men (10km): 27. Matthew Sheen 34.37; 53. Cameron Weaver 35.47; 68. Jacob Brown 36.08; 122. Nathan Williams 37.58. Teams: 5. Vale Royal AC 270pts.
Junior women (6km): 128. Lucy Burch 30.33.
Under 17s boys (6km): 29. Arun Dight 29.42; 80. Alex Doyle 22.34; 164. Oliver Waring 23.39.
Under 17s girls (5km) 68. Caitlin Dimmick 21.36.
Under 15s boys (4.5km): 130. Ed Pettitt 16.36; 254. Aaron Doyle 17.51; 270. Charlie Fawkes 18.07.
Under 15s girls (4km): 15. Holly Smith 16.52; 24. Francesca Harris 17.03; 37. Lucy Smith 17.27; 324. Beth Latham 20.41; 395. Isabelle Davies 22.32; 419. Lydia Davies 24.57. Teams: 13. Vale Royal AC 400pts.
Under 13s boys (3km): 154. Will Ashfield 14.01; 170. Patrick Griffith 14.05; 190. James Lanni 14.12; 412. Yasper Freestone 16.06. Teams: 33. Vale Royal AC 926pts.
Under 13s girls (3km): 11. Grace Roberts 13.39; 12. Holly Weedall 13.39; 275. Faye Conboy 16.00; 276. Rebecca Nixon 16.01. Teams: 19. Vale Royal AC 574pts.
Vale Royal Athletics Club's senior men's team is all smiles before the start of their race during Saturday's English National Cross Country Championships. Picture: Robert Brown