PROUD runners from an Alnwick school have spoken of their delight after notching impressive finishes in a prestigious cross country event, which pitted them against some of England’s finest young athletes.
And they have also thanked the crowds of people who turned out in force to support them at the high-profile English Schools’ Athletic Association Schools’ Cross Country Cup Finals on Saturday, which was held in the town.
The talented athletes from the Duchess’s Community High School put in top efforts to muster respectable finishes in the competition.
Battling it out on home soil, under the shadow of Alnwick Castle, the girls’ intermediate team came 14th out of 23 sides, beating schools from the likes of the West Midlands, Kent and Greater Manchester.
And Alix Eastham was the Duchess’s highest female finisher, crossing the line in an impressive 38th place, from a field of more than 125 runners.
“I was over the moon with that,” said Alix, 15, from Longhoughton. “I was aiming to finish in the top 50, so to finish in the top 40 was very pleasing.”
Meanwhile, team-mates Jessica Morrison and Molly Murton came home in 41st and 42nd place respectively.
Alix also praised the performance of her team – which included Sarah Wilkes (76th), Rachel Cocker (87th) and Yasmin Williams (117).
“We all did the best we could do and you can’t ask for more than that,” she said.
Paying tribute to the home support, she added: “It was really good. The crowd really got behind us.”
Meanwhile, the Duchess’s intermediate boys’ team finished ahead of schools from the likes of Warwickshire and West Yorkshire to come 18th out of 24 teams.
Spearheading the boys’ attack was 14-year-old Phillip Winkler, from Whittingham, who came 25th overall out of more than 135 runners.
A delighted Phillip, who competed despite suffering from injury, said: “I was really happy and really chuffed about where I came.
“Coming up to 200metres of the finish I was 34th. But all my friends, family and the people who were cheering us on were screaming my name and it gave me a huge spur and I overtook nine people.
“It was the most support I have had in my life.”
Fellow boys’ runners were Joe Mallen (52nd), Connor Weightman (78th), James Bolam (92nd), Ben Foy (116th) and Nick Clarkson (126).
It was the first time both a boys’ and a girls’ team from the Duchess’s High had reached the finals of the well-renowned competition.
And Fiona Steele, PE teacher at the school, said she was proud of the pupils’ efforts on the day.
It was a particularly impressive display considering that the series of courses in the Pastures provided a stern test for all the competitors, with steep hills and mixed terrain.
The event was originally due to take place last December but was postponed because of heavy snowfall.
But it did not stop a good turnout at the weekend, with more than 500 runners from schools all over the country taking part on the day.
London’s James Allen’s Girls’ School won the intermediate girls’ competition while St Albans School in Hertfordshire took the intermediate boys’ prize.
Ruth Bourne from Sevenoaks School, Kent, was the first intermediate girl home, completing the 2,750metre course in 9min 27sec, while the 4,250m boys’ intermediate race was won by Alex Vandyke of Bishop Wordsworth’s Grammar School in Wiltshire, crossing the line in 13min 46sec.
Cornwall’s Newquay Tretherras School took the junior girls’ crown, with Harriet Knowles-Jones of Greater Manchester’s Loreto Grammar School winning the individual prize.
The junior boys’ trophy went to Queen’s College, in Somerset. George Elliott, of The Eastwood School, Essex, was first past the post individually.
John Gwyther, ESAA National Co-ordinator, said: “Alnwick is wonderful, absolutely marvellous. The day went well and the youngsters were superb.”
Intermediate Girls – Team: 1 James Allen’s Girls’ School, London (55pts); 2 Penair School, Truro, Cornwall (123pts); 3 South Wilts Grammar School for Girls, Salisbury, Wiltshire (136pts). 14 Duchess’s Community High School (14).
Individual: 1 Ruth Bourne (Sevenoaks School, Sevenoaks, Kent: 2 Natasha Sinha (James Allen’s Girls’ School); 3 Josie Savill (The Lady Eleanor Holles School, Hampton, Middlesex); 4 Amy Cooper (Millfield School); 5 Emma Megarry (St John Fisher Catholic High School, Harrogate, North Yorkshire); 6 Victoria Mobley (Tudor Hall School, Banbury, Oxfordshire); 7 Georgina Hay (James Allen’s Girls’ School); 8 Megan Blake (Saint Martin’s, Solihull, West Midlands; 9 Ella Shirley (Minster School, Southwell, Nottinghamshire); 10 Helena Keenan (Manor High School, Leicester, Leicestershire).
How the Duchess’s girls got on: 38 Alix Eastham; 41 Jessica Morrison; 42 Molly Murton; 76 Sarah Wilkes; 87 Rachel Cocker; 117 Yasmin Williams.
Intermediate Boys – Team: 1 St Albans School, St Albans, Hertfordshire, (35pts); 2 Millfield Scool, Street, Somerset (130pts); 3 Salesian College, Farnborough, Hampshire (132pts). 18 Duchess’s Community High School (247pts).
Individual results: 1 Alex Vandyke (Bishop Wordsworth’s Grammar School, Salisbury, Wiltshire); 2 Robin O’Connor (St Albans School, St Albans); 3 Toby Starling (Salesian College); 4 Adam Oxley (Wolfreton School, Hull, Humberside); 5 Richard Allen (Salesian College); 6 Robert Lightowler (St Albans); 7 Daniel Jarvis (St Anselm’s College, Prenton, Merseyside); 8 Luke Greer (Northampton School for Boys, Northampton, Northamptonshire); 9 Thomas Blanchard (Ermysted’s Grammar School, Skipton, North Yorkshire); 10 Ben Pye (St John Fisher Catholic High Schoool, Harrogate, North Yorkshire).
How the Duchess’s boys finished: 25 Phillip Winkler; 52 Joe Mallen; 78 Connor Weightman; 92 James Bolam; 116 Ben Foy; 126 Nick Clarkson.