It would have to go down as one of the toughest and most daunting of race venues in the British Isles. And usually one of the muddiest as well. Prestwold Hall in Loughborough was the venue for the 2023 UK CAU Inter-Counties Cross Country Championships. In this event, counties from up and down the country go head to head in a fearsome and, at times brutal, battle for supremacy. And because the counties all want to pick the best available runners to represent them, the standard of the athletes is sky high.
Being such a long way from South Coast comforts as well, you might think that perhaps Bournemouth AC members wouldn’t be the first ones putting themselves forward for the event and thrusting themselves into the bear pit. That assumption would be wrong though. In fact, there were numerous BAC runners who had been selected to represent Dorset and had made the journey up. That included Oliver James who was competing in the Senior Men‘s race and Kirsty Drewett who was in action for the Senior Women.
There was also Bournemouth AC members featuring in the Under 17, Under 15 and Under 13 races, demonstrating how important the club is to the Dorset area in terms of the quality of runners they produce.
Since Dorset didn’t have a team of six runners for the Under 20 Men’s race, Oliver James got drafted into the Senior Men‘s squad. He didn’t let them down either, coming in in 125th place in a time of 42:14. That made him Dorset‘s first scorer. The distance for the race was 7.29 miles and Ollie got round in an average pace of 5:47. On that course, which is about as muddy as it could possibly be, and quite lumpy as well, that was a very impressive effort from Ollie.
The rest of the Dorset squad consisted of four Poole Runners – Nathaniel Willmore, Haydan Clarke, Joe Godden and Iain Ferguson and Fred Harris from Poole AC. They put the county in 31st position for the Senior Men’s race.
The Dorset Senior Women only had two runners so they didn’t score any points for the team in the Inter Counties Championships but Kirsty Drewett donned the famous green vest. Completing the 5.29 mile route in a time of 46:40, she finished 262nd.
There were four Bournemouth AC runners competing for Dorset in the Under 17 Men‘s race with Hugo Richardson, Seb Crowe, Harry Dolman and Nathan Mearns all taking part.
Continuing his fantastic form of late, Hugo Richardson was second Dorset runner home, clocking a time of 22:29 for the 3.82 mile distance. That put him in 84th place and his average pace was 5:52 minutes per mile.
Next to reach the finish was Seb Crowe who got round in 23:26, putting him in 148th place. He was a little disappointed with that display but the standard in these races is so high that it is very difficult to compete near the front, even if you are a quick runner. It was a good learning experience for Seb though anyway.
Finishing in 214th place in a time of 24:37, Harry Dolman wasn’t one of the four scorers for Dorset. it was still a good run though from him. Nathan Mearns did alright as well, completing the course in 25:36 which put him in 238th place overall.
Perhaps the standout Dorset performer out of all the races was William Rabjohns of Poole AC who came 20th in the Under 17 Men’s race, rocketing round in 21:16. With the standard of these races being so high, that was a very impressive result.
The Dorset team of four for the Under 17 Men‘s race included another up and coming Poole AC star in Henry Cornish who was fourth scorer in 23:40. The Dorset team for that race did brilliantly to take 19th place.
Competing in the Under 17 Women‘s race, Emily Coltman put in a decent display to finish 213th, getting round the 3.4 mile course in 26:33. That put her just outside the scoring team of four for Dorset.
It had been a good week for Emily as she’d scooped two prizes in the Boscombe Winter 5k Series a few days earlier, finishing as 2nd female overall and first in her age group.
Emily was joined in the Dorset team by fellow Bournemouth AC member Mariah Marshall but unfortunately the race didn’t go quite as well from Mariah’s perspective. She’d been up all night with a bad fever the night before the race so wasn’t really feeling herself on the day. She didn’t want to let the team down though and was determined to take to the start line no matter what. So she did.
Usually Mariah has quite good balance but on this occasion she fell over a couple of times on the way round since she was still feeling a little dizzy from her fever. To her credit though, she didn’t give up and managed to complete the race, clocking a time of 33:53. That put her in 256th place.
It may not have been her finest performance but it was probably her bravest and regardless of the result, pulling on the fabled green Dorset vest is always a proud moment for any runner.
Also in that race and wearing the green of Dorset was former Bournemouth AC star Erin Wells and she performed extremely well to finish in 35th place, recording a time of 22:34. She was first scorer for the county. The Dorset team finished 25th in that race.
Incidentally, Erin, Emily and Mariah have known each other and trained with each other for quite some time and there are a couple of photos of them together in the Sportshall when they were 8 or 9 years old. They’ve come a long way since then and are now representing the county together at Under 17 level, which is quite a heart warming story.
Competing in the Under 15 Boys race, Harry Butcher reached the line as third scorer for Dorset, getting round in 17:12 which put him in 240th place overall. His Bournemouth AC teammate Oliver Thomson wasn’t a scorer but completed the course in 17:44 which put him in 281st place. The Dorset Under 15 Boys team finished in 37th place.
In the Under 15 Girls race, Isabel Cherrett was competing in her biggest event to date and her race was the ninth out of ten that day so by the time she got on it, the course was very well carved up. After all, 2,500 runners had trampled through it beforehand.
It was so muddy that at one point Isabel slipped down to her knees and picked up some nasty spike marks down her arm as she was stepped on. That didn’t stop her though and she still finished as Dorset‘s highest scorer, taking 36th place in a time of 17:19.
Matilde Blagden also competed for Dorset that day, getting round in 21:35. That wasn’t enough to get her a scoring place but it was enough to seal a 287th place finish for Matilde. The Dorset team finished 27th for that race.
Almost the entire Dorset team for the Under 13 Girls race were from Bournemouth AC with five out of the six athletes being club compadres. Amazingly, four of them were very closely matched as well, all finishing within 11 seconds of each other.
It was Albha O’Brien who got over the line first in a time of 14:48. She came 116th, with Seni Purnell coming in just one second later to take 117th place in 14:49. Constance King arrived three seconds later to record a time of 14:52 which put her in 121st place. Only a further seven seconds passed before Clodagh O’Brien reached the line to make it four for Dorset in a time of 14:59. That put her in 138th place.
Imali Ware of Yeovil and the fifth Bournemouth AC member Amy Betts finished within a second of each other, with Imali taking 248th place in 16:09 and Amy taking 251st in 16:10. That put the Dorset Under 13 Girls in 25th place.
It was great to see so many Bournemouth AC athletes competing on such a big stage, representing Dorset and doing themselves, their club and their county proud. Such heavy involvement from BAC members throughout the different age groups shows how integral the club are to the running scene in Dorset and underlines how important it is that they continue to produce top quality athletes.