A fair bit of mud, no wind, low temperatures but nice in the sun, was the enviroment for this years Cross Challenge cross country event incorporating the cross country leagues of Mid Lancs, Red Rose and Merseyside – and all competing against national and international athletes who were racing for qualification places for the European Championships being held in Brussels in December: And what a great day of racing it was. Blackburn Harriers had seventy six athletes out on the day, racing across all of the age groups with sucess for Jack Baranowski in winning the U13 Boys race and Jess Warner-Judd who qualified for the European Cross Country Championships.
All times and positions in this report are from each race – Mid Lancs and Red Rose Results will be out later.
First race of the day was the Europeans Mens Short Course Relay Trial featuring 16 athletes with Blackburn Harriers Daniel Bebbington finishing in 10th place running 4.38 – the winner – Josh Lay coming home in 4.28 with Adam Fogg in 2nd spot (4.29) and Alex Molloy in 3rd (4.31). Bethan Morely won the Women’s race in 5.06 with Khahisa Mhlanga in 2nd (5.09) and Kate Axford in 3rd (5.11).
206 lads lined up for the U11 Boys race which saw the first two Blackburn Harrier lads home in the top 30 – Morgan Watson running a fine race in 27th overall (7.43) followed by another good run from Theo Addy in 30th spot (7.46) with Hector Kazemi finishing 195th spot (9.42) in just his second ever race for the Club. Six girls in the U11 race which had 198 runners in it. Amelia Pacelli set off hard and led the team home in 32nd spot (8.24) backed up by Sophie Douglas running 8.35 in 46th, Hanna Krolikowska in 126th position running 9.30 in her first ever compettive race, Esme Krige placing 169th in 10.10, Pippa Blackburn running only her second ever race in a time of 11.10 (184th) and Mia Logan also in her second race (12.33) in 194th spot.
Lining up for the U13 Girls race including 132 runners were five Blackburn Harriers and in the U13 Boys race featuring 110 runners, three Blackburn Harriers. Leading home the team in the U13 Girls race with a fine run was Millie Jordan, taking a top 20 place with a time of 11.59 in 19th. Next across the line came Charlotte Smith in 46th spot running 12.56 followed home by team mates Annie Heaps in her first ever cross country race in 66th place (13.36), Alexa Hunt in only her second ever cross country race 93rd in a time of 14.42 with Charlotte Rothwell one place further back in 94th (14.40). Jack Baranowski had another fine run in his last year as an U13, winning the race in 10.37 to back up his win as an U11 at the same event in 2022. Max Unthank finished in 36th place running 11.38 in his first race for the Club with team mate Oliver North in 46th in a time of 12.03 and his first ever race in cross country for the Harriers.
The U15 Boys race featured 132 athletes whilst the U15 Girls had 148 lining up. The Harriers had really good entries in these races in terms of numbers – 17 in total – 10 in the boys race and 7 in the girls race. Sam Aspey got a top 30 place running 10.11 in 26th with Henry Ward also having a strong run in 33rd (10.16). Next home came Jack Wood in 55th spot (10.49) followed in by Alex Rothwell 64th (11.07), Theo Robinson 70th (11.16), Max Belshaw in 75th place (11.21), Callum Singleton in 84th spot (11.35), George Holman 93rd (11.54), Loucas Lancashire in 104th (12.08) and Liam Bennison running 12.10 (105th). Lottie Hesketh was the first home for the Harriers in the Girls race taking 64th place in 12.12. with back up from team mates Lyra Krige (69th) running 12.19, Agatha Taylor in 76th (12.33), Evie Fort running 13.35 in 113th, Tamzin Osborne (117th) in a time of 13.47, Bella McCredie (122nd) in 13.59 and Eleanor Woodford in 125th position with a time of 14.07 in her first cross country race of this season.
Two hundred athletes – 96 U17 Women and 104 Junior Women ran in the same race – Innes Fitzgerald won the Junior Women’s race by half a minute (14.30) from Jess Bailey in 2nd (15.00). Isabel Holt came home in the top 30 running 16.11 in 29th spot with team mate Hollie Cubbon in 89th place (19.15). Charlotte Robertshaw was first back for the Harriers in the U17 Women’s race (58th) in a time of 18.12 and it was good to see Poppi Watson back racing after a long period out with injury, placing 60th in 18.20. Next across the finish line was Isabella Pacelli in 73rd (19.22) followed by Freya Neild in 93rd with a time of 22.10.
Oliver Gill was the first counter for the Harriers in the U17 Men’s race which featured 138 athletes – six of them from Blackburn Harriers. The first two in the race had a massive battle exchanging the lead throughout the race before Craig Shannon took the win by one second in 17.04 from Oscar Schofield in 2nd (17.05). Oliver was just outside the top 30, placing 32nd in a time of 18.25 with his team mates following – Daniel Smith (42nd) in a time of 18.42, Ben Stratton in 44th (18.46), Ethan Cutler (94th) in a time of 20.17, Logan McCredie in 105th place (20.41) and Matthew Smith (111th) running 21.14. The Club had four athletes in the Junior Men’s Race out of 156 finishers – Dexta Thompson, Thomas Monks, Hayden Mercer and Umair Rafiq. Dexta was first home from the quartet in 92nd place running 22.21 with Thomas in 142nd spot (24.57), Umair (146th) in a time of 25.38 and Hayden Mercer 26.04 placing 148th.
The Senior Women’s Race had over 400 in the field with 424 finishers – a race which also doubled as the qualifying race for selection for the European Cross Country Championships for both U23 and Senior Women. Inverness athlete U23 Megan Keith kicked on from her win at Cardiff in the first Cross Challenge to take another very impressive win in a time of 26.02, 53 seconds ahead of second placed Abbie Donnelly (26.55) and Izzy Fry in 3rd (27.05). Jess Warner-Judd took 4th place overall in a time of 27.09 to book her place on the plane to Brussels in December for the Championships. Maddie Elliott (117th) was the next one home for the Harriers in a time of 32.47 with Eleesha Charnley in 130th (33.40), Ellen Sagar-Hesketh running 34.41 in 147th spot, V40 Rebecca Ward in 180th place (37.18), Sarah Krige (266th) running a time of 41.04 and V50 Lindsay Davies 321st in a time of 43.53.
The Senior Men had the same qualifying races as the the Women’s as over 700 athletes stood on the line at 2.05pm. Twenty eight minutes and thirty eight seconds later, Derby’s Hugo Milner won in a very impressive manner (28.38) from U23 Matt Stonier in 2nd (29.02) and Jack Rowe in 3rd (also 29.02) with U23 Rory Leonard in 4th (29.03) and Calum Johnson in 5th (29.06), it proved to be quite a race. U23 Matt Ramsden was the first Blackburn Harrier home and 13th U23 with a time of 30.21 in 41st spot with Daniel Bebbington taking 50th place in 30.35 and that after running in the Short Course qualifying trial earlier in the day. Then came Tim Raynes in 114th place (32.29) followed by Ben Makin running 35.07 in 205th, V45 Chris Davies in 220th (35.41), Richard Addy 37.09 in 263rd position, Badr Alainzy running his first race for the Club in 271st spot (37.29), Danny Maynard 39.03 in 322nd place, V55 Mark Chippendale (348th) in a time of 39.38 and V55 Chris Balderson with a time of 44.34 in 522nd.
In complete contrast first year U20 Codie Dewhurst made the trip to the EIS Indoor Meeting held by Northern Athletics on Saturday November 25th. Four Heats of the 1000m covering U17, U20 & Senior athletes, both male and female. Codie went in Heat 1 featuring 10 athletes won by senior Joseph Hudal in 2.30.70 from U20 Leni Scott in 2nd (2.32.52 and U17 Jake Rowley in 3rd (2.38.10). Codie placed 6th in the race, setting a new PB by 7 tenths of 2.45.08. (RESULTS).
The Wilmslow Festive 10k saw V45 Paul Jeffries back out racing for the Harriers – his fourth 10k road race this year since July. Running a time of 44.58, this was a seasons best for Paul and slightly quicker than his previous race a week earlier.
A week earlier – Aggies Staircase, a local race which has quite a long history and hosted by Darwen Dashers was held on Saturday November 18th and featured 84 runners. The race was won by John Horrocks in 31.02 after a nip and tuck run against Blackburn Harriers second placed Jonny Murphy in a time of 31.14, Robert Cranham (Barlick) taking 3rd spot in 34.02.
The same weekend Helen Leigh was out again, racing cross country in Scotland in the second race of the season in the North of Scotland at Ross County. Suffering with a chest infection Helen still managed to finish in 3rd place for Highland Hill Runners. (RESULTS)
Final action of the weekend came from Rebecca Ward who had taken the meaning of lets ‘double up’ literally. After running at the Cross Challenge race in Sefton Park on Saturday, Rebecca ran the first leg of the Rossendale Lee Mill Fell Relay for her team which placed 50th out of 74 competing on the day with Rebecca running 1hr 09.50 on the first leg. (RESULTS).