It was Leigh Harrier Olivia Stones day on Saturday when she became the star of the Greater Manchester and Leigh Harriers cross country team at the Inter Counties Cross Country Championships at Prestwold Hall Loughborough. The last of the five UKA Cross Challenge races attracted over fifty counties from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales to compete for county team and individual honours.
The worst conditions imaginable faced the athletes with deep mud turning the course into a quagmire all around the undulating course with not a blade of grass to be seen.
The U20’s Junior ladies, including a smattering of international runners, contested the 6km course and as the runners wound their way through the distant woods excitement started to grow from the Leigh team as it became clear that Olivia Stones – in her first year as an U20 – was up with the leaders in 8th place. Coming back into view Olivia started to make a bid for a medal, slowly moving through the field, and with less than half a mile to go she was in 3rd place with one last hill to climb. Stones held off the challengers to win 3rd place in the most important race she has ever competed, recording a time of 26:17: this was an unbelievable achievement as she was awarded her first individual Inter-Counties medal . Considering that she was placed in 65th last year the result was only in her wildest dreams; the achievement puts a close on this seasons cross country races – 3rd in the Inter Counties, 6th in the Northern XC Championships and U20’s Greater Manchester Champion title is an outstanding set of results for the cross country season.
Keely Hodgkinson, also the Greater Manchester XC Champion contested a high class U17 Ladies 5km race. Getting a poor start meant that she was boxed in on a narrow part of the course at the start making it hard work to get back into the race, but slowly working through the field Hodgkinson battled very hard through the deep mud as she forced her way into a respectable 6th place in a time of 23:01 and her best result at the Inter Counties. The XC season has gone well for Hodgkinson finishing 5th in the National Cross Country, 2nd in the Northern Cross Country, 1ST Greater Manchester Club and School Championships and with one race left of the season – The English Schools Cross Country Championships at Leeds, there are still medals to be won.
Fellow Leigh Harrier Eve Williams running in the same and now even muddier U17 girls race was third counter for the Greater Manchester team finishing in 173rd place in 27:39. Laura Riches, running in the senior women’s 8km course and deep in to marathon training for the coming Manchester Marathon, answered the call to run for the Greater Manchester team finishing 3rd team counter in 70th place in a time of 37:48.
In the Girls U13 race over a 3km course, Megan Short after only just getting onto the team as eighth counter in the trials, justified her selection for the team finishing as first runner to finish for the Greater Manchester team in 68th place in 15:42. Rebecca Pollitt did not have the best day coming into the team as an excited last minute reserve; she started the race well, but on the far side of the course in deep mud she lost her shoe with more than half of the 4km race to go, nevertheless she bravely battled on to finish the course in 288th place in a time of 25:02.