The last cross country event to be held at the stunning Nunnery Estate on the outskirts of Douglas was blessed with gloriously sunny and crisp winter weather on Sunday 1 December for the third round of the Law Trust sponsored Isle of Man league. The event attracted 221 competitors.
Organising club Manx Harriers have used the venue for the past four seasons, and in the opinion of many the course devised by Andy Fox has been one of the best to be used for local cross country over the years. The performances of some of the island’s best cross country runners gave the course a fitting send-off at the weekend before the land is used for other purposes.
The senior race winners Ollie Lockley and Rachael Franklin, both members of the host club, have been in magnificent form on the roads recently, and both transitioned smoothly to the different demands of cross country.
Lockley, who recently beat Keith Gerrard’s Isle of Man Half Marathon record, had his first cross country outing of the winter and produced a masterclass as he dominated the 9.8-kilometre Senior Men’s race over four laps of the course. Initially shadowed by Alan Corlett, he soon pulled clear and stretched away to claim victory by more than two minutes with a superb exhibition of controlled running over the undulating estate grounds which include several sharp hills.
Corlett settled into a good rhythm in second place as he consolidated his progress back to top form after an injury layoff, and Orran Smith continued his outstanding year with yet another notable performance to take third place.
Dave Bignell has been impressive this winter and ran extremely well to take his second successive fourth place after a close contest with Sam Looker and Mike Garrett. Luke Phair was the first junior in ninth place, and the race attracted a bumper field of 51.
The women’s race was run over three laps, and Rachael Franklin was the victor with a quality run during which only the first three men were ahead of her. It was a surprise to see this summer’s triple Island Games gold medallist competing, as she had contested a 5k road race at Barrowford in Lancashire at 7pm on Saturday before travelling home on the overnight ferry. Frustrated at the icy roads which forced her to back off in that race, she was fresh enough to produce a typically strong performance on Sunday afternoon.
Eleanor Miklos is another athlete who has been in great form in several disciplines recently, and she took a fine second place finish ahead of Island Games distance runner Elissa Morris. Laura Dickinson produced a typically gritty run to take fourth ahead of Helen Taylor.
There were big competitor numbers for the Short Course races and these were convincingly won by David Cain and former Island Games distance runner Gail Griffiths.
The closest race of the day came in the u17 men’s category between Ieuan Owen and Corrin Leeming. There was rarely more than a stride or two between these two highly competitive athletes, and the battle went right to the line with both being given the same time but Ieuan just getting the verdict.
Ieuan was one of five athletes to complete a hat-trick of victories for the series, the others being Ryan Corrin (u15 boys), Lola Bass (u13 girls), Abi Clayton (u11 girls) and Timothy Perry (u9 boys). These five have all clinched victory in the league with a round to spare, but will be keen to double up with IOM Championship titles at the final event in January.
Battle resumed in the u15 girls race between Macy Hillier and Ella Crowe who have been matching strides all season, but this time Macy was the clear winner. Their friendly rivalry will resume at the Lancashire Championships in early January.
Lucas Stennett took his first win of the season in the u13 boys’ race, and he is one of many local athletes who should go well in Blackburn next month. Another is Freddie Crowe who won the u11 boys’ race to follow his excellent run in the Liverpool Cross Challenge at Sefton Park the previous week.
The under-nine girls’ race was dominated by Issy Kennaugh of Northern AC who beat all bar three of the boys with a top run.
A little further down the fields in the junior races, it is always good to see athletes progressing well during the season. Several achieved big improvements on their placings in previous rounds, including Alessio Costello and Piper Withington in the u11 girls and Gabe Campbell and Theo Quayle in the u9 boys.
Here are the full results.
• Grateful thanks go to all involved with putting on a superb afternoon of cross country action at this historic venue.
• Video footage of all the races has been posted on the manxathletics.com Facebook page.
• The Isle of Man Cross Country Championships, which also form the fourth and final round of the league, takes place on Sunday 19 January and will be hosted by Western AC at QE2 School in Peel. Full details will be available nearer the time.
3 December 2019