THE 116th staging of the annual George Crump MBE Memorial Welsh Athletics Clubs Cross Country Championships took place in Carmarthenshire on Saturday (22nd February) as the half term holidays draws to a close.
Held in 2016-2018 at Singleton Park in Swansea, the popular cross-country fixture travelled 20 miles further West to Pembrey Country Park, near Llanelli for the second year in succession.
These championships have provided great inter-club entertainment since the first ever event 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.
It made a move into Carmarthenshire to the magnificent and popular Pembrey Country Park 12 months ago in 2019 which is set inside 500 acres of woodland and alongside eight miles of golden sands near Cefn Sidan Beach.
The park situated between Burry Port and Kidwelly will also be hosting the event in 2021 over the three-year cycle.
Athletes, officials, guests and spectators were welcomed to difficult cross-country conditions on a showery and windy day, which was certainly an improvement following recent stormy weather up and down the country in the previous fortnight.
In one of the largest fields to date, the 2020 edition of the Welsh Athletics Cross Country Championships saw 768 athletes finish their respective races.
On a demanding course that showcased the counties park and the surrounding areas using a fast and looping course, the competitors aged 9 to 80 tackled fast grass sections, sand dunes, woods and paths as well as running over logs.
Also making a return to this fixture was the white “Marquee of Mayhem” which was situated on the finishing straight and saw participants run through here on each lap. Watched on by many inside including VIP guests, runners and supporters, this was an ideal part of the course to give plenty of encouragement and sound the cowbells.
The course had excellent spectating views all around 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.
For a big number of the Welsh athletes, this was the third visit to the grounds of Pembrey Country Park in a matter of months. The course returned to the same location, near the Ski Centre, as the John H Collins Gwent Cross Country League which came to Pembrey for the fourth time last November and not too far away from the Closed Cycling Circuit where the Welsh Athletics Road Relay Championships were held in September last year.
More than 30 clubs from all corners of Wales, including big numbers from North Wales clubs who made the long journey down South, sent teams to participate and awards were shared around several athletic clubs.
There were eleven races on the Welsh championship race timetable for the future primary school generation (U11) right up to the more experienced seniors and masters with individual titles and team medals up for grabs. Race distances varied from 1,550m for the under 11’s to the senior and master men’s total distance of 10,350m.
Therefore, every individual position counted across all categories as presentations of awards were made to the first three individuals and the first three teams based on three, four or six to score respectively.
Coming out as victors and gold medallists in their respective events from under 11 to senior were: William Coles – Carmarthen Harriers (Primary Schools Boys 5:00), Libby Hale (Primary Schools Girls 5:24), Iwan Thomas – Carmarthen Harriers (Under 13 Boys 11:13), Beca Haf Bown – Menai Track and Field (Under 13 Girls 11:46), Frank Morgan – Carmarthen Harriers (Under 15 Boys 14:58), Jessica Evans – Cardiff Athletics (Under 15 Girls 16:32), Osian Perrin – Menai Track and Field (Under 17 Men 15:42), Samia Jones – Menai Track and Field (Under 17 Women 18:37), Dominic Smith – Swansea Harriers (24:06), Martha Owen – Deeside AC (19:02), James Hunt – Cardiff Athletics (Senior Men 31:58), Marc Hobbs – Swansea Harriers (Master Men 35 33:35), James Thie – Cardiff Athletics (Master Men 40 35:30), Huw Evans – Les Croupiers (Master Men 45 36:50), Lee Aherne – Parc Bryn Bach Running Club (Master Men 50 38:23), Thomas Guest – Swansea Harriers (Master Men 55 40:19), Dave James – Les Croupiers (Master Men 60 39:17), Alan Davies – Llanelli AC (Master Men 65 28:58), Richard Evans – Cardiff Athletics (Master Men 38:06), Melanie Wilkins – Wycombe Phoenix Harriers & AC (Senior Women 26:45), Helen Sharpe – Cardiff Athletics (Master Women 35 29:31), Wendy Price – Carmarthen Harriers (Master Women 40 31:06), Sandra Chipper – Lliswerry Runners (Master Women 45 29:08), Ceri Hooper – Les Croupiers (Master Women 50 32:29), Mary Anthony – TROTS (Master Women 55 34:07), Julie Scholey – Les Croupiers (Master Women 60 36:56)
Before the Welsh Championship races begun, there was a Run Wales Winter Relay event following the success of the Road Relay edition in September. This was something fun, social and incredibly enjoyable, with team members of three to a team completing approximately 2 miles each made up of male, female or mixed teams and forty-eight individual times were recorded.
The Virgin Money Giving London Mini Marathon selection event was the Welsh Athletics Cross Country Championships over the weekend. The first 6 across the line in the Under 13, Under 15 and Under 17 age groups in both genders were automatically selected with the 7th and 8th positions having been selected as non-travelling reserves.
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 & British Athletics Cross Challenge / UK Inter-Counties Championships next up, 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 eight weeks up in Scotland and in the English capital.
Full Results: results.welshathletics.org
Pics. Nathan Jones