Harriers gear up for return of national event to Notts

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Mansfield Harriers will be represented in action and behind the scenes as the English Cross Country Championships return to the county for the first time in 15 years.

The historic grounds of Wollaton Park, Nottingham, will provide the grand setting on Saturday, 22nd February with over 7,500 athletes registered from the length and breadth of England in a bid to be crowned national champion.

Members of the local athletics club Notts AC have risen to the occasion and provided a spectacular and testing course around the famous deer park amongst the backdrop of Wollaton Hall and the great lake which will see the senior women complete a tough 8k route with the senior men completing 12k.

Athletes from the Great Britain & Northern Ireland squad fresh from their recent success at the European Cross Country Championships in Belgrade are expected to lead the charge at Wollaton, headed by Charnwood AC’s Gemma Steel, who gained individual silver and team gold and Andy Vernon from Aldershot Farnham & District, who came away from Belgrade with individual and team bronze.

Last year’s event at Sunderland’s Herrington Park proved to be a very snowy affair with athletes having to contend with blizzard like conditions so organisers will be hoping for more favourable conditions in Nottingham.

Among that organising body will be members of Mansfield Harriers who will be helping to prepare and marshal the course as well as competing in the various races throughout the day, including Mansfield’s in-form Archie Raynor, who collected a superb silver medal in the U15 boys race at the recent Midland Cross Country Championships, held at Leamington Spa.

The 10-race programme starts at 11am with the U17 women running a 5k course.

However, highlight of the day will undoubtedly be the eagerly anticipated senior races with the women starting at 2.20pm and the final event of the day being the 127th running of the senior men’s race.

Harriers’ Pat Carlan said: “The pinnacle of the domestic cross country calendar is without doubt the English National Cross Country Championships, an event that first took place in 1876 which brings thousands of club athletes of all abilities together for a truly memorable day of sporting action.

“This year, not only do I have the enviable task of representing the sports governing body as president of the English Cross Country Association, but I also have the pleasure of presiding over the Championships as it makes a welcome return to Nottinghamshire after a long-awaited 15 year absence.”