English Schools XC Champs, Castle Donnington, Leics

The top young athletes from Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire schools took on the best in the country on Saturday (March 15) when they competed in the English Schools Cross Country Championships at Castle Donnington in Leicestershire.

Nene Valley Harriers took ten youngsters to the prestigious event, which athletes had to qualify to compete in by placing highly in the regional competitions. The quickest 8 competitors on the day would also earn the right to represent England in this Saturday’s Schools International race in Bolton.

Thousands of athletes tackled the draining, undulating course, which saw them threading in and out of two grassy farm fields, right next to the famous motor racing track and underneath the nearby airport’s flight path, further fuelling the already buzzing atmosphere.

Lincolnshire athlete Alex Hampson had the best result of the day for the club, finishing 23rd in the Inter Boys’ race for his county. This represented a significant improvement for the young Bourne Academy pupil, who only just dipped into the top 30 last year. Hampson, 15, will now turn his attention to the track, and plans to open his season with a 1500m at the Bedford Open meeting at Sandy on April 5.

Oliver Bowling also completed the Inter Boys’ race, finishing 295th for Cambridgeshire, a respectable position considering he is still at the bottom of his age group at just 14.

Fellow Cambridgeshire athlete, Mark Rayment, also ran well to finish 64th in the Junior Boys’ race, as did Chris Allison in the Senior Boys’ race, where he crossed the line for Lincolnshire in 77th position out of 314 finishers. The Harriers had three other representatives in the senior event, with Jake Richardson, James McCrae and Billy Mugnier finishing 100th, 170th and 273rd respectively for the county.

Cambridgeshire athlete Casey Hilliam, who only recently joined the Harriers, finished first for the club in the Junior Girls’ race in 292nd, and was supported well by club mates Emma Gibbs, 300th, and Emma Harropp, 323rd, who were representing Lincolnshire.