Dewi Griffiths (coach: Kevin Evans, Swansea) and Caryl Jones (Alan Storey, Swansea) grabbed wins on home soil in the senior races at the British Athletics Cross Challenge in Cardiff to the delight of the Welsh crowd.
Griffiths clinched his maiden victory in Cardiff after a battling display which saw a tussle between the top three. The Welshman led by over 15m at the halfway stage and he expected the lead to extend over the next lap but in fact the gap was cut with Chris Zablocki and the returning Charlie Hulson (Paul Roden, Sale Harriers Manchester) closing in. However, Griffiths showed his impressive winter form and had enough to change gear and move away from his rivals to record the win at Blackweir Fields.
Griffiths said afterwards: “First lap I thought I had got it, second lap I extended the lead more and then I thought it would stretch – half way around the third lap I realised the lead wasn’t getting any bigger! I was giving everything and when they went past me, I thought they’d beaten me, I had nothing left. I somehow managed to find something on the last lap but it was really tough.
“I’ve been on the podium here a few times but the win has always alluded me. It was a tough way to win it but it makes it even sweeter I guess.
“It was nice to see Caryl (Jones) back racing again, same with Charlie (Hulson) so it’s good to see distance running in Wales doing so well today.”
Zablocki claimed second place after a spirited display and Hulson, who last competed in April 2015, returned to action in third.
After four years of injury and threats to call it a day in August last year, Caryl Jones produced a fine performance to win the senior women’s race. After numerous stress fractures in recent years, the Swansea athlete was persuaded by her coach to stick with the sport and try once more. After a dominant run, leading from start to finish, the Welsh athlete was understandably emotional in the aftermath.
Jones commented: “I’m very pleased – you can imagine after four years out the emotion when I crossed over that finish line, it’s a bit overwhelming. I probably need two hands to count how many stress fractures I have had. I was ready to give up in August but Alan (Storey) kept phoning and telling me to keep going, I’m glad he did now. All those tears are forgotten now; my smile across the line said it all.”
Louise Small (Mick Woods, AFD) comfortably settled for second ahead of Elle Vernon (Steve Vernon, Stockport) and Jessica Judd (George Gandy, Chelmsford) in third and fourth respectively.
European Junior Cross Country silver medallist Harriet Knowles-Jones (Paul Roden, Warrington) produced a commanding display to earn her first Cross Challenge win of the 2015/2016 series after two second places previously.
Knowles-Jones spoke after: “The course was the toughest it’s ever been, it was sticky mud which was very draining. I had so many people out on the course today, my family and my coach came to watch as well so they were making sure I was concentrating throughout.”
Sam Stevens (Alan Maddocks, Leicester Coritanian AC) was triumphant in the under 20 men’s race for a first victory in the Cross Challenge after he returned from an injury-blighted 2015.
Stevens said: “I think I nailed that race today, I was pushed all the way which helped. Last year, if pushed like that, I may have let them go past but not today. I was just coming here to enjoy it; I never expected to win so it is a nice surprise.”
Cari Hughes (Andrew Walling, Menai) and Rob Huckle (Mark Vile, Cambridge & Coleridge) were victorious in the U17 women’s and men’s races respectively to round off the programme in South Wales.
Mia Roberts (Deeside AC) upset U15 girl’s Cross Challenge leader Grace Copeland (Bob Smith, Wimborne AC) with a fine performance to take her maiden victory in the event. Lachlan Wellington (Vince Stamp, City of Portsmouth) won the boys equivalent comfortably to take the full allocation of points.
Femke Rosbergen (David Pring, City of Norwich AC) made it back-to-back wins in the Cross Challenge in the under 13 girl’s category. Liverpool winner Tommy Dawson (Leeds City) was a comprehensive victor in the U13 boy’s race once again today ahead of Samuel Almond (Eden Runners) who won in Northern Ireland last Saturday.
Full results can be found on www.fullonsport.com