South West Inter-Counties Cross-Country Championships, Bicton College 6th January 2013 - Report

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In the first of the 2013 major Championship races, Emma Stepto went one better than her performance last year by picking up the Gold medal as the South West Senior Cross Country Champion in perfect conditions at the Bicton College grounds in East Devon. At the other end of the age group spectrum, Sian Temple was runner up in the Under 13 Girls event.

The pictuesque grounds of the college are one of the favourites for many athletes, starting and finishing in front of the old manor house, dropping alongside the lake before twisting & turning over the parkland and fields with some steep inclines. The course can be tricky in bad weather but despite the continued wet weather last year, it provided fast, testing competition for the best athletes throughout the South West Region.

As well as individual competition, this was an Inter County Championships with six of the seven South West Counties involved (Gloucester held their County Championships on the same day). Emma led the Senior Women's team to a comprehensive win as did Sian in the Under 13 Girls with a third victory coming in the Under 13 Boys race.

The Seniors were the worst hit by injury & illness, particularly for the Men's race but signs are looking good for the National Inter Counties at Birmingham, in the depth of strength, if they are back to fitness in early March. Emma had a close tussle with a young athlete from Somerset, Catherine Blew with the pair soon pulling away from the remainder of the field. With the lead changing constanly, it was Emma's strenth on the final section and the uphill run to the finish, which was decisive. The team was completed by Heidi Cottam (20th), Rachel Baker (25th), Jenny Nash (27th), Lucy Mancer (28th) and Alice Rogers (40th). Alice was the County's first Under 20 athlete, at 8th in her age group.

Both Under 13 teams looked strong on paper and performed to their maximum. In the Girls race, Sian beat many of her local rivals for the Silver medal, in touch with the winner from the start. Katie Hughes was close to the front but still showed signs of recent illness, which many have suffered. She still crossed the line at 10th just ahead of Imogen Wood (12th) and Maya Groves (15th). Elowen Penfold (16th and Sarah Wilson (18th) helped the scoring four by taking points off other teams.

Team mates, Finn Birnie and James Greenwood battled it out over the 3Km course to take the honour of being the first County Under 13 Boy home. Finn finished 9th and James 10th with 3 seconds between them. Sam Bray pulled through the field on the second lap to make it third counter (19th) with Thomas Fisher (21st) completing the team but with Bertie Holdsworth (23rd), Fred Bareham (25th) and Tom Randles (26th) all in the chasing bunch.

The Under 15 Girls were one point off Dorset for the Silver medals, with Devon clear winners. Yoyo Barnsley (9th) and Tess Masselink (11th) overtook the early County front runner, Lily England (15th) with Harriet Lord (20th) holding off Lowenna Hawkey for the fourth scoring place.

Frankie Aldred reversed the County Championship placings ahead of Ben Rogers at 20th and 22nd, Isaac Parker, drafted into the team as a replacemet shot into the third County spot at 28th with James Williams at 31st. Finn Burford was just behind at 34th.

The Under 17 and Under 20 Women's age groups seem to be worryingly low throughout the Region but there was still a classy field at the head of both races. In the Under 17's, Issy Steele and Yvonne Chart were the only County athletes but put themselves well into contention with the other leading athletes, crossing the line at 5th and 6th respectively.

Tom Wood took a tumble on the opening lap of the Under 17 Men's race after setting a fast pace near the front. This undoubtably lost him several places as he got back into the race, with Sam Lane De Courtin taking over as the County lead runner. Sam dipped inside the top ten at 9th, Tom did well to hold on to 14th, Kieran Rowe and Edward Laslett both looked strong to complete the team at 27th and 29th.