Berry Hill Park Mansfield
4th November 2017
The heavy overnight rain made for a muddy course at the superb venue of Berry Hill Park, Mansfield for the National Cross Country relays. Louth AC took two U15 teams to this event for the first time in its history and they certainly did not disappoint.
The girls race was first, with Issy Dhami out on the first leg. This was a totally new and very daunting experience for Issy, a mass start of 118 girls all with sharp elbows and even sharper metal spikes all attempting to get to the front is no place for the faint hearted. Issy gave as good as she got and competed excellently getting herself into the top half of the field exiting the first long corner. The leg sapping mud, coupled with the difficult wooded section saw stronger, more experienced athletes take advantage. However Issy never stopped working to the end and handed over to Freya Plaskitt in 81st place in a very fast 8min 14.55sec. A first year U15 athlete, Freya was taking on a large number of girls older and bigger than herself. Competing for the first time at National level, Freya was not daunted by the occasion or the quality of the athlete around her. She fought very well through the mud in a good solid time of 8mins 48.35sec. and improved the team position, handing over to Hannah Reid on the anchor leg in 80th place. Hannah has now put the injury problems of last winter behind her and is now starting to show glimpses of the form that made her a top track athlete in the 2016 season. She was in no mood to hang about and stormed through the field taking an astounding 26 places to bring the team home in a fantastic 54 place. Hannah ran the 22nd fastest third leg in 8min 2.05 sec and no other athlete passed more competitors.
Up next was the U15 Boys, led off by Lloyd Buck. Despite being totally inexperienced, Lloyd had listened well to instruction and got off to a brilliant start and was quickly up into the top thirty of the 125 starters, despite being elbowed and spiked several times, Lloyd ran superbly through the wooded section and only started to find the pace hard in the last quarter of 2Km leg.
The first leg of a National relay event can see places dropped in the blink of an eye, such is the calibre of the athletes competing. An exhausted Lloyd handed over to Matthew Spendlove in 64th position in an incredibly fast 7min 11.15secs. Another first year U15 athlete, competing at National level for the first time, Matthew ran a very competent leg, dropping only a few places to older athletes from some very big clubs and will be delighted with his time of 7mins 41.25secs . Out on the anchor leg, Caleb Stephenson worked tirelessly through a very churned up course and succeeded in improving the final team position to 68th in a solid time of 7mins 48secs.
Given the inexperience of these six athletes at National level and the short time some of them have been in the sport, both teams performed brilliantly.