It was Aldershot all the way on Saturday as Mansfield again played host to the prestigious National Cross Country Relays.
President of the English Cross Country Association and endurance coach of Mansfield Harriers Pat Carlan welcomed an estimated 8,000-strong crowd which included 3,500 athletes from around the country to celebrate 25 years of the event being held at Berry Hill Park.
And it was celebrations all the way for the South of England as Aldershot Farnham & District did the double in the Senior Men’s and Women’s races for the first time in the club’s history.
On a somewhat cool and blustery day the action got underway, and it wasn’t long before local lady Caelidh Ross was rewarded with a silver medal in the U17s race.
Caelidh, a former Mansfield Harrier now running for Leicester Coritainians, saw her team just miss out on taking the title as they were pipped to the post by Birtley AC.
As the day wore on, excitement amongst the spectators grew in anticipation of the senior men’s and women’s races.
However, just prior to this local interest was sparked into life in the U15s Boys’ race as Mansfield Harrier Archie Raynor brought the club home in first place.
He handed over to clubmate Chris Walker, who kept the club in medal contention, handing over to anchor leg Jordan Boam, who was unable to withstand the onslaught of the big clubs and the medals unfortunately slipped from their grasp.
In the Senior Ladies’ race, Aldershot Farnham & District totally dominated proceedings as the trio of Lily Partridge, Steph Twell and Louise Small cruised around the 3k course to take the title ahead of Aldershot’s B Team with City of Stoke taking bronze.
Mansfield Ladies’ A Team gave a good account of themselves, finishing in 48th place with Rebecca Barson leading the charge in 12 minutes and 12 seconds followed by Kahli Johnson in 12.32 and anchored by Sally Hopkins completing the trio in 12.53.
Saving the best for last, the final race, the Senior Men’s race was brimming with international talent as the cream of England cross country exponents surged to the fore, with Belgrave Harriers Nick Goolab showing everyone a clean pair of heels as he brought the London outfit home in first place, with eventual winners Aldershot trailing back in 18th slot.
However, it was the turn of GB international Andy Vernon to fly the Aldershot flag on leg two and fly he most certainly did as he blasted around the 5k course in 15 minutes and and two seconds, which proved to be the fastest time of the day and projected his team into first place which was where they stayed as fellow international Jonny Hay anchored them to the Championship title.
The Mansfield Men’s quartet of Andrew Wilson (18.22) Mark Johnson (16.59) Jonny Lowe (19.22) and Paul Butcher (18.02) did their club proud, finishing in a solid 61st place.