South of England Cross Country Championships, Brighton 27 January 2018

A trip to the seaside was certainly not the chance to enjoy sun, sea and sand, as the South of England Cross Country Championships took place in cold, wet and muddy conditions on a course described as "a dangerous skating rink" at Stanmer Park, Brighton on Saturday.

Despite a sore throat and cold, Kate O'Neill came closest to a podium place as she just missed out on third place and was not far short of silver in the Under 17 women's race. Molly Sweetman had her best result at this level placing eighth and had the resting Jessica Mitchell and injured Sophie Rand been competing the squad would have been strong gold medal contenders.

Matthew Blacklock also made the top 10 in the Under 13 Boys' race. Shane Hart (143rd), Alex Kerr (212th) and Ryan McCarthy (249th) made up the 27th placed team. The Under 13 Girls combined well for a seventh place team finish. Stephanie Okoro was a fine 14th, with Natalie Sewell also making the top 20, and Tilly Canty (65th) and Holly Bradley (139th) completed the scoring quartet,

The senior men's race was met with strong wind and driving rain that turned the nine mile course into a skating rink with mud over hard chalk which caused many athletes and spectators to fall. Grant Twist took all this in his stride having a superb run, finishing in a great 18th place but Rob Warner was not so lucky, being one of the many fallers, only to be picked up by one of the runners he was lapping to go on to finish in a bloodied 83rd place. Paul Grange battled well to come home in 211th, followed by two Havering athletes who worked well together on the dangerous course, John Whitehead 265th and Barry Smith 270th to place the team 22nd. Gary Atkins also fell but he picked himself up to finish in 447th while Steve Walker found the last lap hard and finished a good 508th and Richard Rowe finished the team in 605th with well over a hundred floundering behind him.

James Stewart was the club sole Under 20 Men finisher, performing well in difficult conditions to finish in 50th but Ben Davis after his England début last weekend found two top races in just under a week too much and pulled out when in 10th place.

The senior women's team placed 18th thanks to strong runs from Vicky Smith (65th) and Ginte Bailey (71st) while Bella Woods (130th) and Clare Davies (169th) were in the top half of the 350 finishers.

Both Under 15 teams were short-handed. Luke Chester (183rd), Dominic Jarvis (188th) and Sam Bradley (189th) were one short of a scoring boys' four, while Alice Brown (128th) and Annie Grannell (183rd) were the only girls in action.



Under 13 Girls: 14th  Stephanie Okoro 11:27; 20th Natalie Sewell 11:38; 65th - Tilly Canty 12:09; 139th- Holly Bradley 12:59  (Team: 7th)


Under 15 Girls:  128th - Alice Brown 16:46; 183rd Annie Grannell 18:10


Under 17 women:  4th - Kate O'Neill 17:54; 8th - Molly Sweetman 18:10


Senior Women:  65th - Vicky Smith 34:16; 71st Ginte Bailey 34:43; 130th - Bella Woods 37:19; 169th - Clare Davies 39:20 (Team 18th);


Under 13 Boys: 10th  Mathew Blacklock 10:20; 143rd - Shane Hart 11:58; 212th - Alex Kerr 12:47; 249th - Ryan McCarthy 13:33  (Team: 27th) 


Under 15 Boys:  183rd - Luke Chester 17:35; 188th - Dominic Jarvis 17:46; 189th - Sam Bradley 17:46


Under 20 Men:  50th James Stewart 30:47


Senior Men:  18th - Grant Twist 53:58; 83rd Rob Warner 57:08; 211th - Paul Grange 62:06; 265th - John Whitehead 63:35 (Team 22nd) 270th - Barry Smith 63:42; 447th - Gary Atkins 72:25; 508th - Steve Walker 72:49; 605th - Richard Rowe 77:02


Photos: Tracy O'Neill, Jerry Canty, Emily Brown, Mick Ford