What a contrast yesterday’s weather was in Loughborough, compared to the mud bath that was Leeds. Last weekend saw secondary school athletes tackle tough conditions at the English Schools Nationals Cross Country. There were mature performances and stunning demonstrations of endurance abilities.
Yesterday, it was the primary school runner’s turn to grace the fields of Loughborough, which only two weeks’ prior had hosted the Inter Counties Cross Country Championships. Differing from the Inter Counties though, yesterday’s event was the very first athletics event for many young runners and their families, so it was very much all about participation and trying out the sport for the very first time.
The fields of Prestwold Hall were packed out, with schools, friends and families travelling from all over the country to see their young athletes try their hands at the mud. Teams were very excited to see cameras, a big screen for spectators and a drone flying across the fields to capture fantastic footage from above. This all added to the enjoyment of the day and there were lots of tired yet happy faces.
The day kicked off with the very youngest of the competitors, the Year 3 Girls Leicestershire and Rutland County Championships. As it was a taster event for many, who were quite possibly trying the sport for the very first time, local athletes volunteered as race hares and lead the competitors around the course. The race was just 1.4km, but hundreds of runners toed the grassy line. The winner was Miami Pinell of Leicester City, who was closely followed by her teammates in second and third, making it a full house for the local team. Next up, the Year 3 Boy’s race was dominated by the fast feet of Daniel Straker of South Charnwood.
The Year 4 races were also a county affair and the girls gold was awarded to Eva Cochrane of Loughborough, who had a convincing lead from the outset. It was a victory for Loughborough in the boy’s race too, as Samer Stanely held off Harrison Cartwright of Hinckley.
There was a break in the proceedings whilst the first trophies of the day were awarded and the county teams began to arrive. Awards were presented by 2014 European Cross Country Champion and local Leicester athlete, Gemma Steel, who kindly volunteered her time to help out at the event.
The first of the combined county and national races, the Year 5 Girls, was won by Sophie Quinn who made the long journey from Billingham Marsh House Harriers in Middlesborough. It was a scrappy race for the boys, but it was Fred Jones who came out on top.
The Year 6 races were also combined county and national finals and again were aided by the presence of the race hares, who were rather tired by now! Maisey Bellwood of Team West Yorkshire was over the line first and Owen Ulfig of Wolves & Bilston AC was the winner in the boy’s race.
The Year 7 races were the final events of the day and also the national championships. The hares were very pleased to know that they weren’t needed for these final races, as athletes were familiar with cross country running and could navigate the course.
Daniel Scott of West Midlands Schools was the final winner of the day and speaking to him after his race he said “Yeah the course was quite tricky”. As we mentioned, many athletes were trying out athletics for the first time and Scott and his family were included. His parents explained to us “This is our first year, so we’re not really sure what goes on. Daniel trains once a week down in Solihull. He’s going to try some YDLs this year we think“. Daniel adds “I play football and that but I’ve not really competed much before. I like doing sprints and also long distance. My football helps me with that”. It was fantastic to see so many athletes like Daniel trying out the sport and having a great day out with their families.
All in all, the event was a great success and a brilliant gateway to the sport for many young runners and their families. Bring on next year!