Gold for Libby Coleman and silver for Luke Duffy were the highlights of a successful raid on the Midland Counties Cross-Country Championship by Mansfield Harriers.
The event attracted top-class athletes to muddy Wollaton Park in Nottingham, and for many of the Harriers runners, they came up against the strongest fields of their careers to date.
But nothing could faze Coleman, who stormed to victory by fully 19 seconds in the U17 girls’ race over 5K, or Duffy, who was runner-up in the U17 boys’ race over 6K.
Coleman was outstanding throughout, sitting close to the front on the first lap, at the end of which she was clear with Emily Williams, of Kettering, who is the reigning English Schools 800m champion. At the start of the second lap, she unleashed a ferocious kick that was unrelenting, and she came home first in a time of 18.47 minutes.
Teammates Amber Scott and Mollie Scott also produced terrific runs to earn a silver medal for Harriers in the U17 girls’ team event. Amber was just pipped on the line for fourth in 20 minutes dead, while Mollie showed commendable strength to come home 14th in 20.47.
Track star Duffy soon found himself in a leading pack of six in the U17 boys’ event. But then England cross-country international, and eventual winner Connor Bentley, from Stoke, broke the field. For the rest of the race, Duffy was involved in a two-way duel for silver with Oliver Rouse, of Charnwood, and in a desperate sprint to the line, he pulled it off in a time of 20.47 minutes, two hundredths of a second in front of his rival.
In the same race, Dylan George had to pull out after picking up an infection earlier in the week and, with hindsight, he probably shouldn’t have even started. However, two Harriers did see the U15 boys’ race out, with Ben Smith placing an excellent 14th in 14.38 minutes over the 4K course.
Chasing the leading group, Smith showed admirable determination and looks to be a massive talent going forward. In his first race at this level, teammate Sam Bentley also acquitted himself well, moving through the field throughout to finish 59th in 15.46.
Four ladies from the Harriers club made the start line too and did themselves proud to help the team into 24th place overall. Two of them even made the top 100, with Kahli Johnson coming home in 75th spot and Bev Armstrong in 99th, Behind them were Sharon Armitage in 185th and Tina Copcutt in 245th.