10 am, slipping and sliding alongside thousands of others under a heavy sky in the rolling Leicestershire countryside… and that was just walking the course at the UK Inter Counties Cross Country championships! As usual Mark Goddard and Dr Wharam were assisted by an absolutely superb parental support team and it was fantastic to see the Woodbridge runners making up such a sizeable proportion of a Suffolk team who were looking to punch well above their weight.
The UK Inter Counties is an elite competition between the very best in Britain with 44 counties (Wales, Scotland and N Ireland are divided into larger districts) fielding their best 8 runners in each age category.
First up the U13 boys. Following the mudfest of the Nationals at Nottingham, and then the excitement of taking the first three places at the East Anglian Prep Schools Finals, this was their third demanding weekend in a row. Did George Wharam, Charlie Turner, and Kit Evans Lombe still have anything left in the tank? And how would Edward Rufford, as a Year 7 running ‘a year up’, cope in such a big and talented field?
Charlie and George worked together moving steadily past their competitors, up and down the hills through the gooey mud; 60th, 50th, 40th, 30th, and still they pushed on pacing it brilliantly … 22nd for George Wharam, 27th for Charlie Turner. Kit Evans Lombe was 94th and Edward Rufford came an excellent 262nd that bodes well for the future. Suffolk just missed out on the medals with 4th place, an incredible achievement for such a small county. What a start for Woodbridge!
Next the U15 boys. Two weeks ago at the Nationals, Nathan Goddard edged into the top 20 for the first time with a brilliant 18th but the UK Inter Counties would be harder with some very good Welsh and Scottish runners expected to push him further down the order. With an impressive 29th Nathan was first back for Suffolk continuing his excellent run of form. George Rufford coped well with the mud and hills to finish 240th.
Inspired by the success of the boys it was now the turn of the U13 girls. Bea Thomas was second back for Suffolk in 152nd. Amy Goddard in Year 7, competing ‘a year up’, ran with maturity and intelligence to finish an excellent 177th.
The U15 girls were determined not to be outdone. Sarah Barker led the way for Suffolk in 48th, another National top 50 on what she described as one of her hardest ever courses. Amy Graham dug in to come a well-deserved 158th whilst Milly Buckingham paced it well and finished an encouraging 251st. To give you an idea of how fast the runners come through, Amy Graham, at 158th was just 27 seconds from breaking into the top 100!
So, yet another exceptional day for Woodbridge’s endurance runners! Eleven pupils ran for Suffolk against the very best in Britain, with four in the top fifty. Already being talked about as a national centre of excellence for endurance running the school has plans to develop this further.
Next weekend is the English Schools, the last race of the cross country season. A tough one as nearly all our runners will be a year young for their age category but confidence is high and rightly so.