Long road to national schools xc championships

11:58 23 February 2013

For school cross-country runners there is a tortuous route to a Devon County vest, writes John Perratt.

Sidmouth College organised a few races in the college grounds and out into the Byes before the East Devon trials were held on a picturesque but tough course at Bicton College, way back last October.

From there teams are selected to represent East Devon in a match against Exeter Schools and this takes the runners to the National Trust property at Killerton House. Again it is very scenic but several laps of the course take in the nasty hills at the side of the house up towards the chapel and this quickly spreads the field out.

The Devon Schools Championships took place earlier in the year at the Plymouth Life Centre. As is the custom with school cross-country, the weather was atrocious and spectators were grateful for the warmth of the nearby diving centre. Abi Pyne in her first year as an U15 did well as did Toby Garrick who was competing with the U13s. A team was then selected for the South West Championships which, this year, were held at Blaise Castle in Bristol with the seven counties of the region all taking part.

Sidmouth and the surrounding areas were well represented. The Grierson brothers Kit (U19) and Grey (U17) were 37th and 26th respectively in their age groups whilst, amongst the girls, Sidmouth College student Kate Vine finished 13th amongst the U17 girls and Tanya Marriott was 36th in the U19 section.

The highlight of the season, though, is the next step which is to compete for the county in the English Schools Championship which will take place on March 16 at Cattan Hall, Walton on Trent, Derbyshire. There are eight runners in each team and Kit and Grey, along with Tanya, have been selected as first reserves for their various categories. Kate, though, walked (or rather ran) straight into her team. We haven’t signed her up yet for the Sidmouth club but even at her young age we would love to do so.

On the other hand we do have a claim on Ellie Stone as a member despite the fact that she took a different route to the finals. Once of Sidmouth College she is now in sixth form at Woodroffe and as such has been selected to represent Dorset. Their gain is our loss.

At the other end of the spectrum, Chris Woodcock celebrated the birth of his fourth grandchild by competing in the British Masters 10-mile championships at Lytchett Manor last Sunday and picked up a bronze medal in the men’s 70-year-old category.

The race was in some doubt earlier in the year because a block at the host venue, Lytchett Minster School, was struck by lightning on Boxing Day and burnt to the ground.

With great resourcefulness though the school has purchased the steel-framed dining hall used by the athletes in the Olympic Village and, in that part of Dorset, the Olympic legacy will certainly live on.

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