By Simon Saunders

January 8th, 2023 – RNAS Merryfield, Somerset

Junior athletes stomped their way to success last Sunday, 8th January at the South West Cross Country Championships held once more at RNAS Merryfield, Somerset.

The testing course was probably the most  “traditional” cross-country of this season so far, no manicured park land, this was rough grassland, mud, woodland, hills and a bit more mud in less than perfect weather conditions.

The tough going didn’t prevent some excellent performances on the day, kicked off by Isla May in the U11 Girls who made easy going of the conditions to BAC’s highest placing athlete of the day in 3rd place; a fantastic achievement for a young athlete in such challenging conditions. 

In the U11 Boys Bournemouth’s sole representative Edward King ran hard and placed a very respectable 25th against strong competition from all across the region.  

In the U13 Girls, raced over of 3750m of quagmire and undulating hills, ever improving duo Seni Purnell and Albha O’Brien crossed the line 30 seconds apart in 5th & 15th respectively, closely followed by their teammates Constance King 23rd, and Clodagh O’Brien 24th


Seni Purnell ran most of the U13G race in second place

Albha O’Brien U13G

Constance King U13G

Clodagh O’Brien U13G

Constance & Clodagh did battle royale, pushing one another all the way to the finish line. The girls’ great team placings have been rewarded with a silver team medal and only missed out on winning a bronze for Dorset County by 5 points. BAC scored 67 points, 13 points behind Wells City Harriers and 50 points ahead of Cornwall AC. 

Clodagh O’Brien Finishing strong

Constance and Clodagh battling for the finish line

U13G Second Team pacing and a silver medal

U13G second placed team


Nathan “Mr.Consistent” Mearns, was our only representative in the U17 Boys race, with many of his team mates sick at present. Nathan is an ever present figure throughout the cross country season, working hard on the second lap to finish strongly in 36th and 3rd Dorset athlete across the line.

Nathan Mearns U17B


Emily Coltman and Mariah Marshall, lined up against recent 4th place finisher in the European Cross Country Championships, Innes Fitzgerald (Exeter / Devon) to run in the ever deteriorating conditions. Emily ran hard finishing 27th and 5th Dorset finisher and Mariah came home in 42nd position. Dorset was the fourth county out of six.

In the Senior Ladies Kirsty Drewett was a lone star, battling the wind & rain to place 62nd.

The final race of the day, Senior & U20 mens, was held in rainbows and sunshine! 

Simon Hearn (M50) and Geoff Newton (M60) wading through the mud to finish in 128th and 134th. 

Oliver James, back from Durham Uni for the holidays, romped home 5th in the U20 Mens (27th overall). Olly wasn’t happy, the Christmas sickness bug had gotten to him, but it was an equivalent placing on the same course as 2022 when he was over the moon! 

A great event and some very strong performances which will be taken into account by the Dorset team selectors for the Inter-Counties Cross Country Championship in a few weeks’ time. 

This coming week is the Dorset Schools Cross-Country Championships at Kings Park this coming Thursday, 19th January.