Thursday, 10 December 2009

English XC Relays preview - 2009


Saucony English Cross-Country Relays, Berry Hill Park, Mansfield, Sat 31st October, 2009.

The official date of Halloween 2009 additionally marks a special occasion for the glorious Berry Hill Park in Mansfield as this year, the Nottinghamshire venue will be celebrating not so much ‘trick’ but more ‘treat’, as they reach their 21-year milestone of hosting the annual Saucony English Cross-Country Relays; writes Nicola Bamford.

The landmark achievement also pleasantly coincides with record entries for all bar one of the ten age-group events; with a magnificent 1197 teams registered to compete on the day. The senior men’s event will see 214 teams battle for supremacy over the notoriously flat, soft and dry course; with an equally-impressive 138 squads entered in the women’s equivalent.

The under17 men’s event has gathered 130 team entries; supported by 126 registered in both the girls and boys under15 categories. The under13 girls and boys events have attracted 123 and 110 teams, respectively and the junior (under20) men’s race will have 91. The under17 and junior women events have the lowest amount of teams entered for the day’s timetable this year; however, both categories have seen a marked increase in participation since last years’ event; with 84 and 55 teams entered, respectively.

The popularity of arguably England’s finest cross-country team competition is evidently flourishing year on year; aided by the participation of the nation’s best mud-larks. The senior men’s and women’s course records, for instance, are held by none other than current and former internationals, Chris Thompson (AFD, 14:18) and Hayley Yelling (Bedford, 9:35).

The very first English cross-country relay Championship was held in 1985 in Crystal Palace Park, and then again in 1987; leading to a Mansfield take-over in 1989 for the past 21-years.
Over the years, the event has grown in stature thanks to the dedication of all the officials, sponsors and those who have provided the facilities and services for the event. The inaugural addition, back in 1985, featured just three team championships, in which just 41 teams; comprising only 149 runners finished. In contrast, two decades on, the 10 race categories in 2008 witnessed 721 squads complete the event; with 2,316 athletes finishing – showing just how much the event has grown and matured - Happy 21st Mansfield!

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