The cross country season, under the new sponsorship of Law Trust, burst into life last Sunday on a glorious autumn afternoon. Despite torrential rain the previous day the course at Castle Rushen High School, largely flat and extended since last year with the use of an extra field, remained firm underfoot throughout. A total of 256 competitors across all age groups – including a former Olympic athlete! – enjoyed a top-class afternoon of racing in the Manx Harriers organised event.
Last season’s senior champions Alan Corlett and Rachael Franklin wasted no time in demonstrating their intentions for the coming months, and both recorded convincing victories with classy performances.
Corlett, a week after running a 70-minute Half Marathon in Cardiff, led from the start of the three-lap men’s race and stretched his lead over his pursuers from the off. He made the race look deceptively easy as he took the honours by a margin of one minute 37 seconds over the 8.5 kilometre race distance. Andy Barron likewise enjoyed a big lead over the following athletes, and ran smoothly throughout to take second place. Perhaps the performance of the day came from newcomer Matthew Christian in third place in his first cross country outing. He judged the pace extremely well and looks to be a very promising distance runner.
Rachael Franklin opened her winter season with a strong run to follow an outstanding summer on the track. She shared the pace with some of the higher-placed senior men on the first lap before upping the pace on her second and final circuit. 46 seconds in arrears over the 5.5 kilometre distance was over-50 veteran athlete Gail Griffiths, who is running as well as ever and looked in top form again. There was a good battle for third place which went the way of Carly Craig with a well-judged run.
The younger age group races were as fast and furious as ever, and a few of the under-nine athletes took tumbles in the long grass on the finishing straight. The most exciting finish was in the under-nine boys’ race, with Liam Blake taking victory from Zac Woodward by just one second. Zoe Osborne was the leading girl in the youngest age group, with the u11 honours going to Samuel Corkill and Lucy Ormsby.
It was a good day for the Owen family, with Gethin taking an impressive win in the u13 boys’ race and his elder brother Ieuan winning the u17 class. Lola Bass is another very promising athlete and won the u13 girls race very impressively. She had to work hard to stay clear of Madison McMullen who also ran very well.
Jake Richmond was the star of the u15 boys’ race with a fine run, and there was a good battle in the u15 girls race with Ella Crowe having to fight all the way after a fast start to stay clear of Northern AC club mate Catherine Perry. Lorna Spiers produced her usual smooth performance to win the u17 women’s race.
The short course races were graced by a former Olympic athlete. Mary Purcell (nee Tracey) represented Ireland in the 800 metres in 1972 and the 1500 metres in 1976, and has pb times for the distances of 2.02 and 4.08 respectively. Now aged 69, she showed that she still remains very fit by placing fifth in the women’s race. The races were won by David Cain and sprint star Ashleigh Lachenicht respectively.
Many thanks go to Andy Fox and his team of helpers for a superbly organised event, and also to Castle Rushen HS and the landowner.
Round Two of the series takes place on Sunday 4 November and will be hosted by Western AC at QE2 School in Peel.
Here are the results.