DORSET SCHOOLS ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION
CROSS-COUNTRY REPORT 2008
Three contrasting days; a new venture; some of the best and worst weather and running conditions for years; and a far higher level of participation amongst the young people of Dorset: all of these stand out in my mind at the close of the domestic schools cross-country season.
The first event was the Dorset Schools Cross-Country Championships on the 31st January at Canford Park Arena. This was the “new venture”: a weekday rather than a Saturday, with schools invited to enter directly rather than qualification taking place via Area Trials. The aim was to increase the number and range of entrants, and it certainly worked: over 540 runners participated in the event. Hopefully this will have not only given the opportunity for up-and-coming athletes to experience a large-scale event, but also provided a taster for youngsters new to the sport. In addition, many of Dorset’s top young runners were able to use it as a sharpener for the rest of the season.
The weather? For the first time in years, the evening before the County Championships, we even considered cancelling the event based on a horrendous weather forecast; in the end, the promised storm-force winds and deluge had largely passed over before the first race got under way, although the mud provided some interesting conditions for the runners and marshals. The follow-up event – the South-West Schools Cross-Country Championships in Gloucester on the 9th February – was in stark contrast: glorious sunshine and near-perfect running conditions. The final event of the Schools season – the English Schools Cross-Country Championships at Sefton Park in Liverpool on the 8th March – gave us a mix of fine conditions, blustery squalls and yet mostly excellent going underfoot.
Before talking about individual and team performances, I would like to thank all the members of the Dorset Schools AA Committee, marshals and the army of volunteers (including many not based professionally in the Education system) whose enthusiasm, unequivocal support and much-needed wisdom have enabled each of these events to take place. It is not possible to thank everyone, but I would like to mention Peter Fryer, who in his last season before retirement has worked tirelessly, mapping and marking out courses, preparing team kit and medals, and cheerfully undertaking many other tasks behind the scenes. My gratitude is extended to those who happily gave up their free time to travel with the team and act as team managers at the South-West and English Schools Championships. I would also like to pay tribute to the manager and staff of Canford Park Arena and to the Red Cross volunteers.
As usual, we experienced mixed fortunes during the season, with many personal triumphs and some individual disappointments, but one factor was evident throughout: the sheer hard work, enthusiasm, commitment and dedication of our young people who capped months of training by giving their best possible performances on the day. It is always a delight to take Dorset’s students away to sports events. Regardless of their athletic ability, they consistently exhibit a cheerful, competitive and sporting attitude. However, we must pay tribute to those whose performances have brought them individual and team success.
First of all, the County Championships: congratulations to the following:
(Full results can be found on the Gloucester Schools AA website)
(Full results can be found on the English Schools AA website)
We are all thrilled that Melissa Courtney has continued her outstanding run of achievements by securing a place in the England squad for the United Kingdom Domestic International in Edinburgh on the 29th March. We would like to congratulate her and wish her all the best!
My lasting recollection of this season will be a comment that epitomised the attitude of our young people: It came from a member of the Senior Boys team at the end of the English Schools Cross-Country Championships. The Senior Boys, having travelled late into the previous night, lodged overnight and then waited patiently all day while all the other age-groups ran in breezy but dry conditions, started their race just as a bitterly cold driving rain blew in from the sea, drenching and freezing everyone within seconds. Despite the atrocious conditions, all our boys finished and, standing dripping mud and rainwater in equal quantities in the changing marquee afterwards, one young member of the team simply stated that he was quite happy to have had his icy soaking as: “it was a bit more of a challenge, and made the long journey and the wait seem more worthwhile”! It’s this sort of outlook that makes us realise how lucky we are to work with such fine young people in Dorset. It also underlines my personal belief that athletics and cross-country nurture an ethos of fair play, personal challenge and good humour that is sadly so often lacking in many other sporting activities.
Ian Denison, Dorset Schools Cross-Country Secretary