The new cross-country season got underway in fine style at Port-e-Chee Meadow on Sunday 17th October2021. The first round of four took place under grey skies, the overnight rain having softened the ground a little, but conditions were ideal for cross-country.
The senior races at the Manx Harriers organised event were dominated by established stars Ollie Lockley and Rachael Franklin, the former already selected for next year’s Commonwealth Games and the latter hoping to join him. Both looked in excellent form heading into an important winter season.
Lockley was majestic and made it look deceptively easy as he glided smoothly around the largely flat course and powered up the short sharp hill near the end of each of his three laps, a distance of nine kilometres. He made light work of the varying underfoot conditions, keeping a consistent tempo throughout despite running the whole race solo, well clear of the field.
Alex Bell finished second, a good performance and his best senior cross-country result to date. He is now focusing more on shorter distances on the track, but showed here that he still has plenty to offer over the country.
Third place went to Nhlanhla Nzama who is in a rich vein of form after his recent excellent performance in the London Marathon. He proved his versatility with a strong run over very different terrain.
Sam Looker was not far adrift in fourth place, and he was followed by super-fit veteran athletes Mike Garrett and Paul Condon.
Rachael Franklin continued her strong comeback from an injury-affected year, demonstrating that she is close to her best once again. It was a delight to see her back doing what she does so well and she dominated the six-kilometre women’s race over two laps of the course.
Second place went to Elissa Morris with one of the runs of the day. She too is on the comeback trail after injury and illness, and impressed hugely. She held back a little in the early stages of the race before surging past a number of the men on the second lap to finish only 84 seconds adrift of Franklin. Third place went to Laura Dickinson, always such a strong cross-country runner.
Dawn Atherton, another with a recent Marathon in her legs, just held off impressive cross-country newcomer Emma McMullan to take fourth in a close finish, with Caroline Caren sixth.
Running over the same distance as the women were the u17 men. Corbyn Schade and Charlie Swales enjoyed a close and high-quality contest before the former opened up a winning gap in the closing stages.
The day had opened with two cracking under-nine races over one lap of the main field. The boys’ race produced the closest finish of the whole day with Billy McMullan just getting to the line first ahead of Leighton Curphey in a thrilling sprint finish, both boys being given the same time. Cameron Eyres was third just two seconds further down. The girls’ race was won by Megan Williamson just two seconds clear of Sienna Curphey, with Isabella Quaye third. The quality on show in the under-nine races was fantastic.
The u11 races over two laps of the main field were also excellent. Seamus Hall made an impressive transition from the under-nines by winning his first race in the older age group, with Tim Perry and Gabe Campbell not far behind in second and third. Olivia Martin was in fine form as she won the girls’ race, and Poppy Clayton and Tara Nelson took second and third in their first race in the age group.
There was real quality in the intermediate age group races, the closest contest being in the u15 boys race over 3,900 metres where Sam Perry took victory over clubmate Lucas Stennett by just two seconds. In the concurrently-run u17 women’s race, victory went to Macy Hillier, an athlete who has performed consistently well for several years now.
Harry Stennett produced yet another cracking run to win the u13 boys race over 3,000 metres, while an equally convincing victory in the girls’ contest went to Holly Salter. The u15 girls raced over the same distance and sporting all-rounder Lola Bass was to the fore in this one.
Also racing over 3,000 metres were the short course competitors, an option for junior, senior or veteran athletes to race over a shorter distance which proved very popular. Becky Watterson was well clear of all the competitors including the men with an excellent run, and second across the line was former high jump star Hollie Quaye.
Here are the full results.
- Grateful thanks go to the team of officials who worked so hard to set up the infrastructure for the season, and to all those who assisted at the venue. Thanks also to Douglas Rugby Club for the use of their clubhouse and car park, and to the farmer for use of the fields.
- Round 2 takes place at QE2 School in Peel on Sunday 7 November with racing getting underway at 1pm.
- Video footage of the action is on the manxathletics.com Facebook page.
19 October 2021