THE 115th staging of the annual George Crump MBE Memorial Welsh Athletics Cross Country Championships again took place on the final weekend of February on Saturday (Feb 23), incorporating the Welsh Masters Cross Country Championships and a Primary Schools Challenge event.
It was held on the same day as the English, Scotland and Northern Ireland championships at Leeds, Falkirk and Dublin.
Having taken place over the last three years at Singleton Park in Swansea, the popular competition travelled 20 miles further West.
These championships have provided great inter-club entertainment since the first ever event started in Ely back in 1894 and has always been one of the most important events of the year in Wales, with cross country running being the winter base for all success in middle distance running on the track and the road in the summer.
The championships in 2019 made a move into Carmarthenshire to the magnificent Pembrey Country Park near Llanelli which is set inside 500 acres of woodland and alongside eight miles of golden sands near Cefn Sidan Beach.
Supported by Carmarthenshire County Council, the park who will also be hosting this event for the next two years over the three-year cycle.
Many of the junior athletes in particular in action on the weekend were back in competition, just 10 days after representing their districts at the Welsh Schools National Championships in Brecon.
Athletes, officials, guests and spectators were welcomed to near perfect cross-country conditions, with not a cloud in the sky and unusually mild for this time of year before grey and damp weather arrived towards the latter stages of the afternoon.
A strong breeze did make it tough for runners in the early races of the day before dying down slightly.
On a demanding course that showcased the counties park and the surrounding areas, the competitors aged 9 to 80 tackled fast grass sections, sand dunes, woods and paths along with running over logs and through the “Marquee of Mayhem” situated near to the finish line.
The course had excellent spectating views for those who came out to watch on Saturday afternoon, whilst participants had the chance to take in some breath-taking sights around the route which overlooked Carmarthen Bay.
There were eleven races on the race timetable for the future primary school generation right up to the more experienced seniors and masters with individual titles and team medals up for grabs.
Therefore, every individual position counted across all categories as presentations were made to the first three individuals and the first three teams based on three, four or six to score.
More than 30 clubs from all over Wales, including North Walians who made the long journey down South, sent teams to participate and awards were shared around several clubs.
Represented on the day were the likes of Carmarthen Harriers, Blaenau Gwent AC, Brecon AC, Newport Harriers, Cardiff AAC, Swansea Harriers, Maldwyn Harriers, Cardiff Archers, Llanelli AC, Celtic Tri, Aberdare Valley AAC, Winchester & District AC, Menai Track & Field, Pembrokeshire Harriers, Rhymney Valley, Rhondda AAC, Deeside AAC, Barry & Vale Harriers, Bridgend AC, Aberystwyth AC, Pontylun AC, Neath Harriers, Cwmbran Harriers, Wirral AC, Lliswerry Runners, Parc Bryn Bach RC, Les Croupiers, Run4All Neath, TROTS, Port Talbot Harriers, Pontypridd Roadents AC, Monmouth Schools, Rhondda AAC, Eryri Harriers, San Domenico RRC, Cardigan RC, Colwyn Bay AC, City of Sheffield and Dearne AC, 3M Gorseinon Road Runners and Aberystwyth University Harriers as well as a few others.
In one of the largest fields to date, the 2019 edition of the Welsh Athletics Cross Country Championships saw 628 athletes finish their respective races.
Elsewhere, the master categories were again well attended and teams from Carmarthen Harriers, Parc Bryn Bach RC, TROTS, Neath Harriers, Swansea Harriers and the Clubs Participation Award recipient, Les Croupiers (who saw 59 run) medal.
Local favourite Dewi Griffiths claimed a seventh Welsh Cross-Country title and is now only two away from Steve Jones’ record of nine senior men’s titles.
Training ahead of the London Marathon in April, Welshman Griffiths had only returned home from altitude training with Jones in America on Thursday but appeared to be getting back to his best in Llanelli.
Leading from the front, the Swansea Harrier never looked back as the gap increased after each of the three laps. This followed on from a great run of 61:44 at the Houston Half Marathon last month.
A delighted Griffiths in his home county said: “This is one of the titles I appreciate the most.
“The way last year turned out, I was disappointed to lose my streak but it’s nice to get it back and now it’s one step closer to Jonesy.
“He set the bar pretty high in these championships so hopefully one day I can emulate that.
“In the grand scheme of things, it’s another test and I’ve come through it. This was another stepping stone towards London which is the big aim for the spring.
“Ieuan and James both ran well and I’m happy with that, it shows the kind of shape I’m in.”
The runner-up spot went to Steeplechaser Ieuan Thomas and was the first of two Cardiff AAC athletes in the top three. His teammate and defending champion from Swansea, James Hunt completed the podium positions but had to settle for third this time round. Abed Teweldebrhan (Newport Harriers) and Guy Smith (Swansea Harriers) were next in.
Dan Nash, Stephen Morris, Owen Haswell and James Thie joined Thomas and Hunt in the winning senior men’s team, where Cardiff AAC picked up the gold for the first time since 2013.
Aberdare Valley and Swansea Harriers joined them on the podium in that order.
The Senior Women’s race also proved to be a victory by a comfortable margin. Jenny Nesbitt’s journey from Worcester AC was worth it as she ran to number one by almost a minute over the 7,360m distance.
It’s been a successful few months for Nesbitt, who won the Nos Galan Road Race on the final day of 2018 followed by a 73:16 clocking at the Barcelona Half recently.
“I really enjoyed today” said Nesbitt. “It means a lot to win a Welsh title on the Cross-Country. It was where my running started so I’m very pleased with that.
“It bodes well going into the Inter-Counties where I’ll be challenging a lot of tough runners with the aim of getting to the World Cross.”
Following on behind her in second and third respectively were Melanie Wilkins (Winchester & District AC) and Jade Williams (Amman Valley Harriers).
The team title in this Senior Women’s race was retained by the Swansea Harriers quartet of Alaw Beyon-Thomas, Sian Edwards, Helen Marshall and Rachel Davies who finished four in thirteen. The B team were bronze medallists with Cardiff AAC filling second.
Across all of the junior championship age group races, team gold medals were presented to four clubs from Cardiff Archers, Cardiff AAC, Carmarthen Harriers and Swansea Harriers.
In the two primary events and going to form in the John H Collins Gwent Cross Country League this term, Carmarthen Harriers and Swansea enjoyed team wins in their home region.
Carmarthen Harriers Results by Race:
Primary Boys (1st): 1 Macsen Toogood (5:04); 5 William Coles (5:18); 7 Alex Coles (5:21); 8 Daniel Warrender (5:22); 11 Liam Upton-Boorman (5:29); 23 Jac Jones (5:48); 24 Tristan Warrender (5:49); 43 William Davies (6:39); 44 Tom Morgan (6:40)
Primary Girls (3rd): 10 Ellie May-John; 11 Mabli Collyer (6:08); 15 Jessica Norman (6:16); 20 Esme Lynock (6:28); 37 Grace Toogood (7:10); 42 Luned Defis (7:15)
Under 13 Boys (1st): 7 Iwan Thomas (11:38); 10 Zach Elvy (11:45); 11 Jack Thomas (11:46); 14 Ifan Bowen (12:08); 23 Brynmor Peters (13:14); 36 Tygan Davies (15:04)
Under 13 Girls: 10 Frances Mackie (12:46); 11 Amy Greatrick (12:48); 29 Carys Wood (13:45)
Under 15 Boys (1st): 3 Frank Morgan (15:26); 5 Liam Edwards (15:49); 16 Ioan Cressey-Rodgers (16:51); 33 Liam Evans (19:47)
Under 15 Girls: 25 Tanwen Moon (20:20)
Under 17 Women: 3 Eva Edwards (20:10)
Under 20 Men: 3 Ben Thomas (25:04)
Under 20 Women: 8 Ellie Kiff (23:02)
Senior Women & Master Women (1st): 1 Wendy Price (30:58); 11 Kate Parker (37:40); 14 Lisa Forrest (40:04)
Llanelli AC Results by Race:
Primary Girls: 31 Amelie Campion (6:46)
Under 13 Boys: 18 Iwan Wilson (12:47); 39 James Thomas (15:47)
Under 15 Boys: 1 Adam Beer (14:56)
Under 17 Men: 12 Callum Campion (18:29); 25 Samuel Bird (20:57)
Under 20 Women: 7 Carys Jones (22:56)
Senior Men & Master Men: 16 David Keenan (36:46 SM); 5 Jason Price (40:51 MM45); 28 Matthew Phillips (41:44 SM); 8 Peter Osborne (43:23 MM55); 13 Nick Fox (45:44 MM55); 37 Nick Venables (48:30 SM); 4 Ian Webb (49:14 MM60); 22 Michael Halsall (54:07 MM45)
Senior Women & Master Women: 1 Alan Davies (29:04 MM65); 15 Vanessa Buckler (40:50 MW40); 13 Karen Price (42:35 MW50); 12 Jacqueline Lewis (48:27 MW55); 35 Jessica Davies (48:47 SW); 13 Janet Webb (50:14 MW35)
As far as the country and road is concerned, the season concludes with the final rounds of the John H Collins Gwent Cross Country League & UK Inter-Counties Championships over the next fortnight, whilst school athletes look forward to representing their country at the upcoming Schools International Athletic Board Cross Country Match and Virgin Giving Money London Mini Marathon over the next two month at the English and Ireland capitals.