Midlands medals for Harriers' cross-country duo Rayner and Duffy
Medals for rising stars Archie Rayner and Luke Duffy were the highlights of a terrific performance by Mansfield Harriers at the Midlands Cross-Country Championships at the weekend.
The course, at Prestwold Hall in Loughborough, was a true test of cross-country running after a downpour the previous night left muddy terrain and heavy patches throughout.
But that didn’t faze Rayner, who bagged a silver medal in the U20 men’s race, and Duffy, who came home with a bronze from the race in his age category.
In a very strong field, Rayner found himself up against two England internationals in Tom Mortimer, from Stroud in Gloucestershire, and Will Richardson, from Birchfield in Birmingham, and the trio broke away from the pack quite early. Mortimer stole a march on the second lap to win the race, but Rayner forged ahead of Richardson in the last 2k of the 8k heat to take the runners-up spot.
In the same race, Harriers’ Alex Rieley also continued his tremendous run of form to grab a top-ten position in eighth. He is currently in serious training as he gets ready for the British University Championships next week.
Duffy has made a name for himself on the track with some fantastic performances over the last two years, and now seems to be showing the same potential in the cross-country discipline. Still in the bottom year of his two-year age group, he enjoyed his best race on the terrain to date, finishing third and actually taking first in his school year. Duffy was in the main pack throughout and as the action hotted up on the final lap, he surged through the field to take his medal.
The only Mansfield competitor in the senior men’s race was Jordan Boam, who stuck to his task gamely to finish 138th of the 377 finishers. It turned out to be a particularly gruelling contest because the advertised distance of 12k ended up being 15k!
Elsewhere, veteran Harrier Jonny Lowe competed at the Sheffield Festival of Athletics at the English Institute of Sport. Since returning to the track after 30 years away, Lowe has made a massive impact in his age group and recorded another personal-best in the 800m. His time of two minutes, 14.58 seconds lifted him to first place in the UK over-50 rankings in this event.
The previous week, Harriers U11 boys and girls both finished a superb third overall after the final Sportshall event of the winter, with Tammy Smith taking female athlete of the match. The U15 girls went one better with a magnificent second, but pride of place went to the U13 girls, who dominated throughout and claimed the title.
In the individual top-ten rankings for the season, Tania Smith was first for the girls, with Jess Lake third, Ellis Sheppard fourth, Sophie Brown eighth and Tammy Smith ninth. For the boys, Matthew Young was seventh and Jake Orr 13th.