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The ESAA have photographs and full results at


 A memorable day left Dorset with our first English Schools Cross-Country Champion since 1986, and our first Boy Championship in the history of the event! But more later…

 The course at Stanmer Park was excellent: fast, with a range of hills and flat sections, and extremely challenging, it suited the thinking runner, and the range of talent from around the country making the most of these conditions was testament to the vital importance of the English Schools as a launch-pad for senior athletes. The fact that the first and fourth races of the day – the Senior Men’s and Senior Women’s trials for the World Championships Short-Course (4k) Cross-Country – boasted so many past English Schools Champions only serves to underline the event’s status.

 The Inter Girls started the proceedings with Nikki Hamblin leading the Dorset girls through in an excellent 42nd position. Abbie Lawson and Laura Dixon achieved top 100 places in 88th and 92nd respectively. Tina Evans was 208th, Hannah Hiscock 214th, and Hayley Crawford 227th. Finally Michala Trew and Vicky Ingham were 281st and 283rd respectively. 343 girsl completed the course, and well done to our team for having a full complement of finishers. They achieved 23rd overall, and were the 4th Minor County.

 The Inter Boys followed, and Sean Hogan ran a superb race to finish 12th, despite being ill at the time; he came in just 26 seconds behind the winning boy. Karl Welch was 97th, Aaron Davies 114th, and James Neeves 127th. They were followed by Joe Allen (253rd), Adam Cleaver (266th), Daniel Cheney (291st) and Chris Cherrett (307th). The team was 24th overall and the 7th Minor County. Sean was the third highest placed Minor Counties runner. Well done!

The next race was the Junior Girls, and this was Dorset’s best-scoring team event, with 802 points for the first 6 finishers. Their final position in the Minor Counties was 5th, with an overall placing of 21st. Amanda Bailey ran well to come in 64th, followed by Heidi Burton in 107th and Jess Booth in 109th. Lauren Webb was 164th, Hannah Stammas 175th and Harriet Hughes 183rd. Katie Hooper and Felicity Pavey finished 266th and 268th. 

Following the Senior Women’s Trials we had the Junior Boys’ race. We had high hopes of Matthew Clark (not that we wished to put any pressure on him, of course!), and the other boys in his team provided fantastic support and encouragement for him in the build-up to the start of the race. With a fast 200m flat section from the start leading to the first (and steepest!) hill, it was vital for any runner wishing to do well to get in front of the pack from the word go, or get caught up in the inevitable bottleneck as everyone slowed on the hill. Matthew showed his quality and courage by ensuring that he had a fast start leading into the hill. His coach, Rupert Pepper, takes up the story:

“We had a Plan A, a Plan B and a Plan C. Plan A was to sit in on the first lap and attack up the hill at the start of the 2nd lap, gain a gap and pile it on down the hill to cement a lead.

“That’s exactly what happened – Matthew is incredibly strong up hills and no-one could live with him once he put his foot down. They started to close near the end, but when he could see it happening he was able to open up.”

In the end Matthew won with an 11-second lead in 13 minutes 30 seconds (over 4k). He actually ran the second lap 1 minute 4 seconds faster than the first – no wonder the other boys couldn’t keep up with him! Incidentally, he ran his race faster than the tail-enders for the Senior Men’s Trials, whose course was identical! Well done Matthew (who has been invited to represent England in the Home Countries International in Belfast later this month) and Rupert.

Matthew was given huge support by the other members of his team, who went on to finish as follows: Edward Shackleton (63rd), Luke Greenwood (151st), Adam James (217th), Martin Bealing (268th), Andrew Smith (303rd) and Andrew Mapstone (308th). Vince Howard unfortunately had a shoe pulled off in the crowd and was unable to finish. Better luck next time. The team came 31st overall and 8th in the Minor Counties.

 After all the excitement of the Junior Boys, we were in for another treat: Charlotte Moore led the Dorset challenge for the Senior Girls, and very nearly repeated Matthew’s result. She ran an extremely strong and dominant race throughout, and came into the finishing approaches in the lead. Danni Barnes from Devon was on her shoulder, and as they entered the final straight it was a nail-biting struggle for the line. In the end, Danni crossed the line an indicated 1 second ahead of Charlotte, whose time was 14 minutes 16 seconds! So, to a gold medal, Dorset could now add a silver. Congratulations to Charlotte who again showed her outstanding running qualities. The other Dorset Senior Girls finished in the following positions: Harriet Balme (170th), Pippa Alford (207th), Catherine Atkinson (218th), Alice Horwood (227th), Anneka Smith (247th), Kirsty Lonergan (280th) and Fern Horsey (293rd). Their overall team position was 27th, being the 5th Minor County.

The final race was the Senior Boys, and Dorset fielded a much-reduced team, having been hit by illness – most notably Chris Hillier, who was unable to compete. Colin McCourt ran a strong race to finish 34th, followed by Alex Crutcher in 212th place, Charles Pitt-Ford in 225th place and Symon Stratton in 244th place. Then followed Angus Spencer (258th), Simon Dawson (265th), Rob McTaggart (279th) and Ben Orris, who ran through an injury, in 311th. The team came 36th overall and were the 7th Minor County.

 So, despite a perhaps rather disappointing set of team results, we cam home delighted with an excellent set of individual performances, including 2 medals. Well done to all the runners who took part, as well as all those who contested the few precious team places in the Dorset and South-West Championships. If, this year, you did not manage to gain a place in the Dorset squad, then better luck next season, and we look forward to seeing you compete again. Grateful thanks, too, must go to all the staff in Dorset schools who work so hard to encourage such as high standard of running in the county, as well as the expert tuition from so many outstanding club coaches. A particular mention should be made of the Area Team Managers who work against the clock to put together teams for the County Championships. Finally thanks to the members of the Dorset Schools AA and other staff and helpers who helped organise and lead the teams in the South-West and English Schools Championships.

 Ian Denison

Dorset Schools Athletic Association Cross-Country Secretary.

Tuesday 11th March 2003.

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