Mansfield Harriers shine on national cross-country stage

Ben Smith (vest number 491) in action for Mansfield Harriers at the British Athletics Cross Challenge.
Ben Smith (vest number 491) in action for Mansfield Harriers at the British Athletics Cross Challenge.

A superb entry of eight runners from Mansfield Harriers flew the flag for the club at an event that is one of the highlights of the cross-country season on the national stage.

The British Athletics Cross Challenge, held at Sefton Park in Liverpool, also incorporated the trials for the European Cross-Country Championships and featured high-quality fields from across the UK for each race.

The best placing for Harriers was achieved by Luke Duffy in his first cross-country race of the season. Suffering with a cold, Duffy looked unlikely to run all week, so he did extremely well to finish as high as seventh in the U17 boys’ race, conquering the muddy course with one of his best performances at this discipline and promising much more to come in the future. Dylan George also tackled this event, coming home a very creditable 72nd.

Another runner to have competed only sparingly so far this winter, with the intention of peaking in the championship races later on in the New Year, is Ben Smith. He looked strong throughout his U15 boys’ event, and finished an excellent 36th with a display that suggested he has plenty of improvement in him for the rest of the season.

In the U20 men’s race, Alex Rieley started cautiously in a loaded field for an event that doubled up as a trial for Team GB selection. But he showed terrific resolve throughout, steadily working his way through the field to cross the finish line in a fine 20th position.

The Mansfield club had four representatives in the U17 girls’ race, including the team that had enjoyed national glory at the relay championships three weeks earlier.

On the challenging Liverpool course, it was Libby Coleman who came out on top, demonstrating her trademark qualities of guts and determination to place 11th. Closely following her was Anna Smith, who found the testing conditions not to her liking but still ran gamely to finish 17th.

Amber Scott produced another super run to place 28th, and the team was completed by Mollie Scott, who showed admirable resolution and talent to come home in 39th.

These finishing positions wouild have been good enough to win a team competition if there had been one, and confirmed that the Mansfield ladies are among the strongest in the UK at this age group.

Meanwhile, on the roads, Diane Stewart came back to form with a new personal-best (PB) time of 53 minutes in the Doncaster 10K, held at Doncaster Racecourse.

In the same race, Martin Fickling also clocked a PB, knocking a massive 57 seconds off his previous best to post 38.12, while Jack Cooke improved his best by 24 seconds to 40.37.

Neil Cope was the fastest Harrier on the course, recording 36.45, which was an excellent run considering he had been laid low by a cold in the build-up to the event. He will now be looking for a sub-36 time in the New Year.