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Tonbridge AC men's county XC champions 2023

Tonbridge In Control At Brands Hatch

Kent's finest battle for county cross-country glory

runABC South reporter Alan Newman headed off for a breezy tour of the old airfield at Brands Hatch on Saturday (7 January) as England's county cross country championships were held on their traditional mid-winter date.

Kent County Athletic Association's officials slickly organised an eight-race programme for 10 categories that ran perfectly to time despite a battering from steady rain and wind gusts up to 50mph on the exposed venue adjacent to the famous old motor racing circuit, where the first-ever race held on the Brands Farm tracks in 1926 was between cyclists and cross-country runners.       

Our Kent-based reporter lined up with more than 200 others for the senior men's 12,000m title skirmish, the penultimate race of the day, just as the rain eased but the wind was at its most powerful. Ill-fitting vests billowed on beanpole frames like sails on Finn-class dinghies as Kent's finest athletes – and our reporter – set off with the wind at their tails.

Sailing away at the front was last year's silver medallist James Kingston (Tonbridge, 39:33) from Marshall Smith (Ashford, 40:41) and Alex Howard (Tonbridge, 41:01). Tonbridge AC won team gold at both six and 12-to-score from Medway & Maidstone AC and Kent AC.   

The women's 8,350m race completed the action for the day and resulted in another dominant display from a Tonbridge champion. Phoebe Barker (31:33) forged an early lead and powered clear of Katherine Curran (Cambridge Harriers, 33:05) and Lucy Elms (Kent AC, 33:43) – the daughter of 11th-placed Clare Elms (W55 Kent AC, 35:41).

Tonbridge claimed another team gold – by a single point – from Kent AC and Blackheath & Bromley Harriers at three to score but when the counters were doubled to six athletes, Kent AC took the trophy from Tonbridge and Blackheath.

Earlier in the day Tonbridge AC had taken all four team golds in the younger male age groups, plus under-20 and under-15 individual titles, with Invicta East Kent (under-17) and Medway & Maidstone (under-13) collecting the remaining gold medals.

The junior female races were dominated by Blackheath & Bromley athletes with three individual and two team awards. The medal tally was completed by Annabelle Souter (Crowborough Runners) winning the under-17 race and Tonbridge (under-20) and Medway & Maidstone (under-15) taking the final team gold medals.

Results are available via runABC South's race listing here.

Image of Tonbridge AC men's team champions courtesy Mark Hookway

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