Cross-country racing returned to Port-e-Chee Meadow on the outskirts of Douglas on Sunday 4th October for the first time in nearly 40 years. This venue, with Douglas Rugby Club as the base, was used for cross-country in the 1970s and early 1980s, although on a different course.
The new course devised by Andy Fox is predominantly flat, but with enough features to provide variety for the runners. It includes a short out-and-back hill under trees that is just long and rough enough to test stamina and agility, and towards the end of each lap there was a short stretch of classic cross-country mud.
Glorious autumn weather greeted a cracking turnout of 295 athletes for Round 1 of the Law Trust Isle of Man Cross-Country League. This first round of four was organised by Manx Harriers, with the men’s and women’s races for seniors and veterans both attracting all-time record entries.
There were no surprises at the head of the senior races, Alan Corlett and Rachael Franklin taking convincing and impressive victories over three and two laps respectively of the full course – distances of 9,000 and 6,000 metres. Both have only recently returned to full training following a break at the end of the unusually late track season.
Corlett was tracked by Will Draper throughout the first lap and into the second, the latter looking strong and composed although a much less experienced cross-country runner than his training partner. On the final lap Draper felt unwell and slowed, allowing first-year u20 Ieuan Owen to catch and pass him in the closing stages. This was a wonderful run by the young Western AC athlete who continues to impress, especially as this was his first time contesting the same distance as the seniors.
There was a close battle for fourth place, Mark Burman almost catching a tiring Orran Smith in the finishing straight. The latter’s fatigue was understandable after his epic circuit of the Raad ny Foillan the previous weekend. Paul Sykes completed the top six.
Rachael Franklin was totally dominant in the women’s race, and had some of the leading men for company throughout her two laps. Elissa Morris ran strongly to take second place, and there was a race-long battle for third place between distance runner Rachael Hamilton and 400 metres specialist Ashleigh Lachenicht. The finishing speed of the Island Games 400 metres champion eventually settled an intriguing contest.
Sarah Puzzar produced one of the runs of the day to take fifth place. She judged the race well, upping the tempo on her second lap to make up several places. Sixth place went to cross-country newcomer Becky Watterson, and the leading junior was race-walking specialist Keira Heavey.
Running alongside the women were the u17 men, and Ryan Corrin impressed in this race with a very solid winning performance.
The action had begun with the under-nine and u11 races round one and two laps respectively of the main field, and the u11 boys’ race produced the most exciting finish of the day. Liam Blake and Harry Stennett have had many close battles this year, none better than on Sunday. Never far apart, they entered the finishing straight together and sprinted neck and neck for the line as the big crowd cheered them on. It was Manx Harriers athlete Blake who just got there first, both lads being given the same time.
Abi Sinclair was the clear winner of the u11 girls’ race, with the sprint finish for second place going to Jessica Bergquist by one second from Olivia Martin.
The winners of the under-nine races were Seamus Hall and Eve Martin, but every competitor gave their all and there were some great performances.
Several of the intermediate age groups raced together over different distances, and it was a fine sight for the spectators as a train of fast-moving runners made their way around the fields and across some shallow ditches in the beautiful warm sunshine.
Macy Hillier dominated the 3,000-metre u15 girls’ race, looking in fine form and gliding smoothly over the terrain. Madison McMullan was second, three seconds clear of Lottie Stennett. The u13 boys and girls ran alongside the u15 girls, and victory in these races went to promising young athletes Charlie Arculus and Holly Salter.
Running alongside these competitors were the Short Course runners with Dawn Atherton and Mark Corrin taking the wins – Dawn in the faster time.
There was a real depth of quality in the 3,900-metre u15 boys’ race, only seven seconds separating the first three. Gethin Owen won by six seconds from Sam Perry, who in turn was just one second clear of Lucas Stennett. All three lads are part of talented athletics families.
Star race-walker Mia Dunwell was the sole competitor in the u17 women’s race but she ran very well in company with the u15 boys.
Prior to the senior race there was a minute’s silence and a round of applause in memory of Colin Watterson who sadly passed away last week.
- Grateful thanks are extended to the army of officials who all did so much to make the event a great success, and to Douglas Rugby Club for allowing the use of their clubhouse and car park.
- Round 2 takes place at QE2 School in Peel on Sunday 1 November with racing getting underway at 1pm.
- ideo footage of the action is on the manxathletics.com Facebook page.Here are the full results.