Despite the horrendous overnight weather conditions in South Wales at the beginning of the weekend,
the opening fixture of the 2018/19 UK Cross Challenge still went ahead as planned in Llandaff Fields,
close to Cardiff on Saturday 13th October 2018.
By the time action, which included performances by three athletes from Morpeth Harriers, got underway,
the torrential rain had ceased, and the wind had decreased to a stiff breeze, and conditions underfoot
were reportedly much better than anticipated, considering the previous twelve hours or so in surrounding areas, which had seen flooded areas of road, and several fallen trees.
Best of the three performances was by Under 20 Athlete Rory Leonard, who was hoping to make an enterprising start to his first season in his new age group, knowing he was going to be up against some stiff opposition, including some athletes who were a good year, or perhaps even two years older than himself.
Nevertheless, the 2017/18 Under 17 Inter Counties Cross Country Champion was not to be deterred,
and was very much at the front of affairs of his two lap 6.4k event for most of the way, sharing front running duties with other leading lights such as City of Stoke’s Connor Bentley, Chesterfield’s Alex Ediker,
Cambridge & Coleridge’s Tom Keen, Milton Keynes’s Ben West, City of Portsmouth’s Lachlan Wellington,
Menai’s Oliver Barbaresi, and Welsh pair Elliot Lawrence of Swansea, and local favourite Jake Heyward of Cardiff.
By the time half way was reached, the leading group had very much begun to break up,
with only Leonard, Heyward, Barbaresi, and Lawrence, along with Wellington at the helm of things.
With 1k remaining Heyward made a determined surge for home, and while the group broke again,
only Leonard continued to give chase to the local hope.
Heyward slightly increased his lead in the final 200 metres, however Leonard had not given up in the chase,
and by the time the Welshman crossed the finish line to take victory in 19m56s, Leonard had cut down his margin of lead to a mere fourteen seconds. It was a superb run for the Morpeth man, and the margin to the third placed Barbaresi had increased to twenty-five seconds.
Barbaresi just snatched the third place from Swansea’s Lawrence on the run in.
Northern Senior Women’s Cross-Country Champion Mhairi MacLennan of Morpeth Harriers
certainly gave her all in the Senior Women’s 6.4k event.
She was well to the fore in front running affairs until the final quarter, locking competitive horns
with race winner Anna Moller of Denmark, Shildon International Kate Avery,
making a competitive comeback on British soil, Aldershot’s Emily Hosker-Thornhill, and Blackburn’s Jess Judd.
MacLennan bravely ran to finish an excellent fifth, a mere twenty-two seconds adrift of Moller,
who won in 21m48s, by a margin of four seconds from Avery.
In his first official outing in a UK Challenge event, Morpeth Under 17 Man Daniel Melling
performed extremely well in his 5.56k event, run over two medium sized laps.
Melling certainly acquitted himself well by finishing fifteenth in a 46 strong field of finishers,
posting a finishing time of 18m43s, which saw him finish a mere fifty seconds adrift of race winner,
and event favourite Mohamed Ali of Ealing, Southall & Middlesex.
The next UK Challenge event is held at Milton Keynes on Saturday 10th November.