WRITTEN FOR THE ENGLISH CROSS-COUNTRY ASSOCIATION
Team England repeated their 2009 success with a clean-sweep of team victories at the annual Home Countries cross-country international; collecting two individual titles in the process, writes Nicola Bamford.
Mansfield’s Berry Hill Park played host to the increasingly popular fixture, where England battled it out with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, in addition to squads representing the South, Midlands and North.
Scotland put up a stiff fight for supremacy with two individual victories and two team runners-up positions only decided on a narrow count-back but England drew strength from the home-support to dominate the days’ proceedings.
British international Hatti Dean looked confident throughout; scoring an emphatic 18-second victory and leading Team England to top honours. The 28-year-old Hallamshire Harrier; fresh from third-place in the national, made light work of the opposition with 25:09 and never looked in doubt for the win.
Representing the South, Emma Pallant found herself in the runner-up spot for much of the race but England’s Hannah Whitmore came though strong over the last 800m to take the silver medal, with 25:27 to Pallant’s 25:43. The Charnwood AC runner (26) was recently 4th in the UK Championships and made up for being controversially overlooked for GB selection for the following days’ World Championships.
The Lions brought home their four runners in the top-five placings, courtesy of Natalie Gray (22, Medway and Maidstone) and Gemma Steel (24, Charnwood AC) who were fourth (25:48) and fifth (26:03), respectively.
In the junior women’s race, national under-20 Champion Joanne Harvey asserted her intentions for victory by leading a group from the offset before powering away in the second half to win by a convincing margin. The 20-year-old Exeter Harrier clocked 21:30 for a 12-second lead over team-mate Naomi Taschimowitz.
Taschimowitz; 20, of Taunton AC, registered 21:42 for a clear second-place; capitalising on the form which saw her finish fourth in the national.
Laura Parker (19, Wells City Harriers) ensured an England 1-2-3 by coming home in 22:05, with baby of the team; 18-year-old recent English School’s 4th-placer, Rebecca Craigie (22:38, Vale Royal AC) completing the team in fifth position.
In the most thrilling race of the day, England’s James Walsh relinquished a six-second lead in the final 600m to be passed by Scotland’s in-form Bruce Raeside in the finishing straight.
Despite his disappointment, Walsh finished only three-seconds adrift (in 31:54) and lead Team England to a narrow victory. The 28-year-old Leeds City Harrier, who was recently 6th in the UK Championships, divided the winner from another Scot, third-placed Tom Russell (32:03).
21-year-old Norwich athlete; Ashley Harrell finished in 7th in 32:44 to complete the squad.
Scotland again took victory – this time from Matthew Gillespe; with England scorers further down the field yet still taking the runners-up spot for the team performance.
Seventeen year-old Karl Billington of Blackburn; fresh from second-place in the English School’s was the first England counter in fifth in 26:41; a mere second ahead of team-mate Andrew Combs (18, Tonbridge AC) in sixth. Coombs’ position followed-up the same placing he registered in the UK Championships.
One place and only three-seconds behind was Richard Peters (20, Bristol and West AC) and national sixth-placer Matthew Jackson (Warrington AC) came home in twelfth in 27:12.