ATHLETICS: GEMMA Holloway was the star of the show as a large contingent of Thurrock Harrier youngsters took on the mud-bath of Parliament Hill in the Southern Cross-Country Championships.

London’s Parliament Hill is notorious for its mud and energy-sapping hills and with the wet weather we have been experiencing this winter, this year’s course was at its most testing.

But Holloway didn’t let the conditions affect her as she stormed to a fine fourth place finish in the under-17 women’s race.

The 16-year-old has only just recovered from a bout of illness that forced her to miss the Essex Championships at the start of the month.

But she showed she has lost none of her strength by producing a magnificent sprint finish to go from fifth to fourth in the final 100m.

In fact, if the 5,000m course had been an extra 50m longer, she would probably have run herself into bronze medal position such was the speed of her finish.

Holloway will now hope that run is a building block for the even bigger dates on the horizon: the English, UK Intercounties and English Schools championships.

Thurrock Harriers’ under-13 boys all continued their impressive season with strong runs. Jack Exley led them home in 49th spot, followed by Harry Parker (62nd), Reece Scott (72nd) and Taylor Newell (163rd).

There was a very strong run by Sam Smith in the under-15 boys race as he finished in 41st place and the second Essex athlete home. His team-mate Jody Meredith was 69th.

Hayley Instance again performed strongly in the under-13 girls age group, finishing in 122nd spot while Brooke Mensah was 140th in the under-15 girls race. Gary Cahill was Harriers’ sole representative in the under-17 men’s race, finishing in 134th spot.