Stockport Harrier Steve Vernon created his own piece of history on Saturday as he became the only man to have won eight national cross country titles, as he stormed to victory in the English National Cross Country Championships in Nottingham.
On a splendid sun soaked day that offered almost spring like conditions, over 10,000 people, including runners and officials from Mansfield Harriers, descended on the 500 acre deer park at historic Wollaton Hall, and with a 10 race rolling programme. the day’s action soon got under way.
First to start were the U17n women, running a 5k course and the crowd were not disappointed as they were treated to a real battle that went down to the wire with Invicta’s Bobby Clay and Birtley’s Lydia Turner, involved in a sprint finish to sort out the medals, with Turner eventually getting the better of Clay and Warrington’s Harriet Knowles-Jones taking bronze.
With the crowd’s appetite whetted, anticipation grew for the prospect of some big showdowns in the senior women’s and men’s races.
However, before that took place, there was reason to cheer for local interest as Notts AC athlete Douglas Musson took a superb bronze medal in the junior men’s 10k event.
As the day wore on, it became the turn of the senior women to show their mettle, and it was the eventual medallists who stamped their authority early on in this two lap, 8ke race.
Gemma Steel from Charnwood AC and Steph Twell from Aldershot, Farnham and District, both of whom were part of the gold medal-winning Great Britain & Northern Ireland team at the recent European Cross Country Championships in Belgrade, continued to push the pace, and they were soonjoined by Twells’ club mate Lily Partridge.
In the end Steel proved too strong for her challengers, crossing the line well ahead of Twell with Partridge taking the bronze.
The day’s proceedings were concluded with the eagerly awaited ‘Blue Ribbon’ event, which saw almost 2,000 men line up for a spectacular 12k race.
From the gun, a large group of athletes, which included the eventual winner, Steve Vernon, were prominent, and as they completed the first of three laps on an undulating course, it was Olympic triathlon bronze medallist from the 2012 London Games, Jonathan Brownlee, who hit the front as a group started to split.
However, this turned out to be short-lived, as Vernon took control with only Shaftesbury Barnet’s Richard Goodman for company.
The pair proceeded to put daylight between themselves and the rest of the field, as the race entered the latter stages.
Vernon was not to be denied his place in history, crossing the line with room to spare ahead of Goodman and a fast-finishing Andy Hayes of Hallamshire Harriers, who took a well deserved bronze medal.
After the race, Brownlee was besieged by autograph hunters and told cross country president Pat Carlan, that he was pleased with his top 10 place, having come back from injury related lay-off. He said he felt that he was competitive for most of the race, but didn’t really expect to stay with the leaders, and that he had really enjoyed his visit to Wollaton Park.
Local club Mansfield Harriers were out in force to do their bit for the event by helping to set up and marshal the races, as well as having athletes compete in most of the events throughout the day. Harriers competing:
U15 girls (4k): Bethany Williams 58th 17.06, May Roberts 263rd 19.46, Emily Venkatesan 304th 20.57.
U17 girls (5k): Hannah Hardy 104th 27.58, Harriet Codd 118th 29.20, Hazel Blount 122nd 29.43, Alice Mortiboy 126th 30.01.
Senior women (8k): Rebecca Barson 216th 35.27, Amanda Hardy 381st 38.46, Sharon Armitage 514th 42.16.
U17 men (6k): Alex Rieley 72nd 21.46, Ben Hardy 221st 24.22.
Junior men (10k): Jordan Boam 139th 37.32.
Senior men (12k) : Andrew Wilson 534th 45.37, Gary Morley 892nd 49.36, Tim Raynor 1087th 52.08, Jonathon Hardy 1200th 53.49, John Harrison 1325th 56.04, Julian Wood 1326th 56.04.