Leamington share in Walsh’s Midlands win

Leading athletes from as far afield as Bristol, Nottingham and Stoke descended on Newbold Comyn last Saturday for the Leamington C&AC- hosted the Midland Cross Country Championships.

The course wound its way around the lower, wooded area of the common and rose through the sports fields, with runners having to negotiate a water-filled ditch and climb the notorious Beacon Hill. Athletes also had to contend with the heavy, sticky mud which clung to even the best cross-country running shoes like glue.

The winner of the senior men’s, three-lap 12k race was defending champion James Walsh (Leeds AC), who picked his third Midlands title in four years.

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The former Leamington C&AC member proved a popular winner. with vociferous support from his family and coach, the former Great Britain 5,000m runner Mike Baxter.

Walsh had to fight hard to hold off challenges from Bruce Raeside and Matt O’Dowd of Notts, but proved up to the task again.

For the hosts it was always going to be a middle-of-the-pack day with all the big clubs in attendance.

However, Jamie Langley showed plenty of promise in his first senior outing to come home 50th out of the 299 finishers. His good hill climbing and aggressive descending tactics paid off as he gained many places on the hill.

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Despite missing two key runners, the Leamington team managed to finish a respectable tenth out of the 22 teams behind winners Notts AC.

Dave Ashworth led the remainder of the team home in 103rd, with Paul Griffin (134th), Brian Miller (167th), Craig Blower (175th), Michael Denney (179th), Steve Roberts (198th), Alex Montgomery, (199th) Russ Burrows (201st), Paul Caruana (202nd), John Leathem (223rd), Graham Roberts (248th), Bert Payne (258th) and Mick Aston (292nd) completing the Leamington finishers.

In the absence of Sue Harrison, Leamington’s ladies’ team were led home by masters international Monica Williamson who battled gamely over the 8k course for 41st of 180 entrants.

Kassie Betts was next, in 61st, followed by Zara Blower (81st), Emma Day (98th), Carol Blower (145th) and Janet Mee (156th). The team were 13th out of 22.

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In the junior races, Leamington produced some promising performances.

In the under-17 men’s race, Guy Allen ran well for 11th place, gaining support from Callum Hanlon, George Loveday and Michael Batstone as Leamington finished seventh.

The under-17 women’s quartet of Kat Taylor, Lydia Mee and Mary Donaldson were 11th.

Chris Wood, Faye Barr and Emma Fulcher represented Leamington in the under-20s’ races.

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In the under-15s’ races, Charlie Davies (13th) led the boys’ team of Jack Savage, Sam White and Chris Lewis to 11th place.

The girl’s race produced Leamington’s best result of the day, with Megan MacDonald coming home fifth, just 30 seconds adrift of the winner.

The under-13 boys’ trio of Finlay Wilde, Sam Wadsworth and James Potts ran well, while the girls, inspired by Isobel Davis’ fine 13th place, came home ninth.

Sophie Wouters (40th), Maddison Illsley (51st), Asha Chakrabarti (62nd), Isabel Tello-Wharton (107th) and Charlotte Haigh (109th) completed the line-up.