Two dominant displays from Dewi Griffiths (coach: Kevin Evans, club: Swansea) and Jess Judd (Mick Judd, Chelmsford) saw them seal the senior races at the Cardiff Cross Challenge on a chilly day at Blackweir Fields.
Griffiths’ performance exuded confidence as he opened up a 100m lead on the first short lap; his front running tactics were clear to see. The Welshman, who has just returned from a Welsh Athletics warm weather camp in Tenerife, was showing the signs of a good block of training as he ate up the ground in front of him. However, compatriot Kristian Jones (Swansea) continued his recent impressive form to keep the British international athlete within his sights as the race unfolded. However, he could not bridge the gap and Griffiths won this event for the second year in succession.
Griffiths spoke afterwards: “I’ve just come back from a Welsh endurance camp in Spain – I trained well there but you never know how the legs will react on your first race back. Fortunately my strength was there, maybe not my top gear but I had enough to win and that’s what I came here to do.
“I knew Kris (Jones) would pose a tough challenge; he has been in great form over the last month. I knew I could push it on but it was on which lap to play it. I made an honest race of it early on and could see him going back slightly on the third lap so I had to just keep pushing. The distance (ahead) at the end probably flatters me.”
Judd, who is in the middle of January exams at Loughborough University, spent her weekend break winning the senior women’s race after a commanding performance. Despite a modest first short lap of the race, Judd showed her quality over the next two large laps to open up an unassailable lead. Swansea’s Verity Ockenden (Tony Houchin, Swansea) finished strongly to place as the next finisher in the Cross Challenge standings as she ran well on home soil but could not get close to the impressive Judd.
The Chelmsford athlete commented on her victory: “It’s really nice to be at the front again but it is hard to pace it. It was fantastic though and I’m so happy that I held on. I felt comfortable until probably the last 500m – I was really starting to struggle around that final loop. But I’ve worked really hard for that so I am really happy to win.
“I’m really happy with my cross country season so far. I’m trying to do a combination of speed and endurance work at the moment – so sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t (in races), I think it was a bit off in Edinburgh. It was great to come here and feel like my normal self again. I’ve got a couple more cross countries and I’ll look to do the (Cross Challenge) final in Loughborough.”
After duels in Edinburgh and Antrim earlier this month, it was third time lucky for Hugo Milner (Chris Woodhouse, Derby) as he earned a commanding win over Jonathan Shields (Michael Thompson, Sheffield & Dearne). The pair were evenly matched for much of the 6990m course, however, it was on the final long lap that the Derby athlete made the most damage. By the time they were running alongside the River Taff, the result was never in doubt as Milner strolled to the win.
Anna MacFadyen (Forres) ensured Scottish victory in the U20 women’s race, turning on the burners in the final 300m to overhaul Ireland’s Anna Rose Farrell and take her first ever Cross Challenge win. It was a fairly close affair for much of the contest, and although the Irish athlete appeared to open a gap as the finish line came into sight, the Forres runner timed her effort to perfection.
Ireland’s Sarah Healy won the battle in the U17 women’s race against Hannah Hobbs (Pat Gallagher, Westbury) – the pair were part of a quartet of athletes who were all in contention with 200m to go. However, the Irish athlete had the strength in the closing stages to hold off her competitors in a frantic finish. Her compatriot Darragh McElhinney won the men’s equivalent after pulling away from Antrim winner Matthew Willis (self-coached, Wrexham) over the final lap. However, Hobbs and Willis took the full allocation of cross challenge points.
Lily-Jane Evans-Haggerty (Victoria Park City of Glasgow) sprinted to the U15 girl’s race win whilst Harris Mier (John Knowles, Cornwall) snatched victory from Mohamed Ali (Idris Hamud, Hillingdon) in the final stages after a burst to the line.
Anna Hedley (Fife) continued her unbeaten run in the cross challenge series so far in 2016/17, triumphing in the U13 girl’s race after a long trip from Scotland. Wharfedale’s Alexander Thompson won his second challenge race of the series, matching his result from Liverpool last November.
Lexi Flockhart (Huntingdonshire) improved upon her fourth place finish from the Milton Keynes event earlier in the series to win the U11 girl’s race. Alistair Shelley won the boy’s equivalent.