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Medals and tumbles for Thurrock distance runners at Intercounties event
ATHLETICS: THERE were medals, tumbles and some superb individual performances from our top athletes as they represented Essex at an action-packed UK Intercounties Cross-Country Championships.
South Essex athletes Tom Richardson (under-20 men), Gemma Holloway, Alice Perkins and Sophie Riches (under-17 women) were all part of silver-medal winning teams at the championships held at a boggy Cofton Park in Birmingham.
But there was painful frustration for Southend AC’s Adam Hickey in the senior men’s race as he fell awkwardly in a particularly boggy section of the course and was forced to pull out when he looked well placed for a top 10 finish.
Basildon AC’s Richardson produced arguably the run of the day in the under-20 men’s race as he picked his way through the field over the tough 8km course to finish in a magnificent 16th place.
He was just behind Essex’s first scorer Chris Youell, who also had a fantastic run, to finish in 10th place. And those two stand-out performances were backed up by Hoseah Gikungu (44th) and Stephen Woodford (55th) who ensured Essex claimed a terrific silver medal.
Basildon AC’s Jack Fitsall was just out of the scoring places finishing in 68th place with Southend pair Ollie Kyriakides 82nd and Rhys Gillard 130th.
The under-17 women’s team that included Holloway, Perkins and Riches was an agonising two points from the gold medal.
The team showed their strength from the outset, packing well at the head of the field, and it was Jess Burgess (Woodford Green) who led them home in 12th place just two places ahead of Thurrock Harrier Holloway.
And not far behind that pairing were Rayleigh duo Perkins (Basildon AC) and Riches (Chelmsford AC) who had their own battle over the closing stages which Perkins just edged to finish in 16th place with Riches in 19th.
Basildon AC’s Emily Bullis also ran strongly to finish in 122nd place.
Hickey was running well inside the top 10 in the senior men’s race, which doubled as the trials for the World Cross-Country Championships, when he fell midway through the 12km race.
The Southend AC athlete tried to get up and get going again, but experienced sharp pain in his leg and hip and was forced to pull out and ended up in hospital.
Fortunately for Hickey, the injury is not as serious as first seemed and he is likely to be back racing this weekend.
It all meant an already depleted Essex senior men’s team were shorn of another of their leading men as they finished in 18th place overall.
Basildon AC’s Grant Webb, running his first intercounties in the senior age group, finished in an encouraging 159th place.
The senior women’s team was equally as depleted and it turned out to be a bit of a battle between the young and the old as to who would be the first Essex finisher as Thurrock Harriers’ Jo Wilkinson and Basildon AC’s Gemma Kersey were locked in their own battle for much of the way round.
Former Great Britain international marathon runner Wilkinson, now 39, ultimately prevailed to finish in 28th place, with Kersey, 21, not far back in 39th place.
In the under-20 women’s race, Basildon AC duo Jade Peel and Eleanor Johnson both had impressive runs with Peel finishing in 65th place and Johnson coming home just four seconds later in 69th. Southend AC’s Jordan Lacey was 111th.
In the under-17 men’s race, Adam Houchell (Basildon AC) continued his fine form this winter to finish in 55th place. Southend AC duo Rob Frith and Ben Franklin were 138th and 172nd places respectively.
George Elliott (Chelmsford AC) was the second Essex athlete home in the under-15 boys race behind fourth-placed Canaan Soloman. Basildon AC youngster Max Jones, in the bottom year of the age group, pulled out a superb run to finish third Essex scorer in 62nd place with Southend AC’s Adam Jordan filling out the scoring team in 69th place. The team finished in fifth place.
Also rising to the occasion on the big stage was Benfleet RC’s Victoria Hiscock in the under-15 girls race as she led the Essex team home in 40th place. Jodie Judd was next to finish just three places further back while Basildon AC’s Isobel Ives got inside the top 100 with a 96th-placed finish.
In the under-13 boys’ race, Gus Withers (Basildon AC) led the Essex team home with a 31st-placed finish. Southend AC’s Toby Wright was the next home in 55th place while Basildon AC duo Mason Webb and Mitchel Cox were 102nd and 151st places respectively.
There was a terrific run by Southend High School for Girls’ Katie Faint in the under-13 girls race as she came home third Essex scorer in 71st place. Her Chelmsford AC team-mate Khai Mhlanga was Essex’s only individual medal winner on the day as she took silver.
Basildon AC’s Niamh Smith also had a strong run as she was the fourth and final Essex scorer in 90th place. Benfleet RC duo Megan Richardson and Sinead Clark finished in 104th and 124th places.
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IT is another busy weekend for our top young cross-country runners.
Tomorrow they will represent Essex in the English Schools Cross-Country Championships in Derbyshire.