Belgrave Harriers women's team 2023

First National Title For Belles

Top clubs lock horns on the mud in Mansfield

The National Cross Country Relays in Berry Hill Park, Mansfield on Saturday (4 November) provided the first chance for the top English clubs to lock horns this winter in true cross-country conditions. 

With Storm Ciaran passing through there was cloying mud and incessant rain during the afternoon but that did not put off the clubs who were keen to test themselves against their rivals in this popular competition.

More than 200 teams entered the senior men's 4x5K relay and an hour after the start the team gold medals were claimed by Cambridge & Coleridge AC – with just two seconds to spare!  

City of York had led for three stages but all the fireworks happened on the final leg as Cambridge & Coleridge AC appeared from the wooded section with the narrowest of leads from Aldershot, Farnham & District AC and that was the order at the finish – 1:02:04 to 1:02:06 – with Highgate Harriers (1:02:36) improving from a steady start to finish third.

There were 659 individual times recorded and the fastest was 14:56 by Angus McMillan of City of York AC. A total of 150 teams finished the requisite four runners to count. 

The senior women's 3x3K race featured a dominant display by a Belgrave Harriers team that included the 2022 National Cross Country Champion Sarah Astin. This was the Belles women's first-ever national title and a triple-A-star performance from Kate Axford, Gemma Astin, and Sarah Astin.

Belgrave led from gun to the chip mat in 30:11 to win comfortably by 40 seconds from Aldershot, Farnham & District AC (30:51) and Aldershot 'B' (31:23) – with Leeds City AC (31:47) the next club home.

The women's field comprised 354 athletes with the top time being 9:56 by Niamh Brown (Aldershot, Farnham & District AC). Just over 100 club teams finished their three scorers.           

The programme at Mansfield consisted of 10 age group races and the eight younger age group winners were under-20 men: Aldershot, Farnham & District AC; U20 women, University of Birmingham AC; U17 men, Chelmsford AC; U17 women, St Albans Striders; U15 boys, Trafford AC; U15 girls, Aldershot, Farnham & District AC; U13 boys, Bracknell AC; U13 girls, Aldershot, Farnham & District AC.  

Full results are at the English Cross Country Association website here

Photo courtesy Belgrave Harriers on Facebook

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