First of junior XC race series

The first references we have of cross country races in this country are from texts of the 14th century, writes Malcolm Bayer.

The first references we have of cross country races in this country are from texts of the 14th century. It was some time before the first xc championships were organised in 1876, and the first national championships were held in 1927 when women were eventually allowed to participate. During the early part of the last century, cross country was even an Olympic sport. The first xc races were held over rough terrain - including ploughed fields, ancient woodland and streams, a far cry from today's rather sterile courses.With this in mind, three of the running clubs from East Devon (Sidmouth RC, Honiton RC and Axe Valley Runners) planned a xc race series for their junior runners which considered health and safety and athletic development, but also gave the opportunity to compete against one another over a more dynamic course which would be challenging but fun.Last Saturday morning saw the first of the series take place at Core Copse on East Hill Strips. The Forestry Commission kindly gave permission for the races on their land. Core Copse is a plateau with steep wooded slopes to the east and south. Following the recent heavy rain, all tracks were rather muddy, including the slopes! These natural conditions made the various age group routes challenging for all 43 runners.First off was the under-10s' race which was won by Sam Tipton (SRC), and the first girl home was Franki Keast (SRC), over the one mile course. Great runs by both of them.In the under-13s' race there was a great battle between Nick Smith (SRC) and Grey Grierson (SRC) who battled away until the home straight, with Nick coming out in front. Christian Rampersad had a terrific run to finish third. In the girls' race Ellie Stone stormed home ahead of Layla Felgate and Mollie Hansford (Axe Valley). All fine performances over the 3k course.The under-15s' race started off with the sun peeping through and the autumnal golden larch a picture. But the runners wouldn't have noticed it during their efforts on this tough course which included two rope climbs! Iain Harwood (SRC) and Kit Grierson (SRC) went for it from the start and battled away through the rugged woodland. Iain came home first with Kit second and Steven Trenchard (Hon) third. In the girls' race, Romy Phillips (Axe Valley) showed her recent good form to finish ahead of Sophie Keywood (Honiton). Dan Clapp (Axe Valley) had a terrific run in the under -17s though he may have used his knowledge of the woods as he used to train with Sidmouth when he was younger. Dan powered home ahead of his contemporaries Thomas Dunn (Hon) and Nathan Carpenter (SRC). A couple of Axe Valley seniors also took part in this race, and it was good to see Garry Perratt running again, and Phil Bayliss in shorts that may have been fashionable at the 1927 championships, but not really 2008. Garry just pipped Phil at the line. Thanks go to all who helped out on Saturday. The next race in the series takes place on Saturday, January 17, at Morganhayes woodland. For further information about junior running at Sidmouth Running Club, please contact Malcolm Bayer on (01404) 812186.

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