Saturday 22nd February 2020 saw the 116th running of the Welsh Cross Country Championships. The races took place at Pembrey Country Park, a venue that is fast becoming one of the best endurance running venues in Wales having recently held the Gwent League and the Welsh Road Relay Championships.
After two consecutive weekends of heavy storms, the weather was slightly kinder for the athletes, although still very windy.
The Senior Men’s race was absolutely stacked this year with several big names present including 8 time Welsh XC Champion and 2.09 marathoner Dewi Griffiths, 2018 Champion James Hunt, 2019 English U23 3000m Steeplechase champion Ciaran Lewis and British 50km record holder Dan Nash.
James Hunt continued his superb recent form to win the race with a time of 31.58 to become a two time Welsh XC Champion following his win in 2018. This follows on from a sub 14 clocking for the Bridgend man at the Armagh 5km International. James spoke with Running Review Cymru:
“I decided to make it an honest race so took it out hard from the start and managed to stay strong into the wind on the long hard parts of the course but thrilled to take the win and get my title back which I won in 2018. Really enjoyed the race and the support around the course was brilliant!”James Hunt (Cardiff AAC – Welsh XC Champion 2020)
Finishing in 2nd place and 24 seconds behind James was teammate Ciaran Lewis with a fine run. Cardiff Met student Ciaran won the under 20 race in Swansea in 2017 and appears to be adapting to the senior ranks well. It ended up being a Cardiff AAC 1,2,3 with Dan Nash coming through for 3rd place, 4 seconds ahead of Swansea Harrier Dewi Griffiths. Dan appears to be coming into form nicely ahead of the Spring marathon season. Finishing outside the podium is an irregular occurrence for Dewi but no doubt he will be happy with a hard runout at Pembrey to continue his comeback following a frustrating 2019, hampered by illness. The ever improving Adam Bull, now running for Pontypridd Roadents rounded the top 5. Adam currently leads the Gwent League standings after 4 races out of 5.
Unsurprisingly, Cardiff AAC took home the team prize, with Swansea Harriers in 2nd place and Pontypridd Roadents AC in third place. Les Croupiers took home the Clubs Participation Award with 48 runners on the day, a great effort.
In terms of the masters there was a win for Marc Hobbs (Swansea Harriers) in the MM35, James Thie (Cardiff AAC) in the MM40, Huw Evans (Les Croupiers) in the MM45, Lee Aherne (Parc Bryn Bach RC) in the MM50, Thomas Guest (Swansea Harriers) in the MM55, Dave James (Les Croupiers) in the MM60, Alan Davies (Llanelli AC) in the MM65 and Richard Evans (Cardiff AAC) in the MM70.
The women’s race didn’t quite have the same level of depth as the men’s race with a few notable absentees due to the busy race calendar and a few weddings. Starting the day as clear favourites were last year’s 2nd place and 2018 3rd place Melanie Wilkins from Wycombe Phoenix Harriers and last week’s BUCS Indoor 3000m silver medallist Lauren Cooper (Parc Bryn Bach) who has been running well over the country this season. Melanie was back at Pembrey seeking to go one better this year and secure the gold medal.
The Wycombe athlete was challenged early on by Cooper before opening a gap and powering home to her first Welsh XC title and dragging Cooper home to silver and her first podium finish in the XC Champs.
Mel spoke with Running Review Cymru:
It was, as always a lovely event to be part of. I love coming to Wales where my family are all originally from to race the national champs. It means so much to my family that I’m part of it.
The race itself was faster than I expected, I was challenged early on by Lauren Cooper who recently came 2nd at BUCS. I knew the course from the previous year which helped as I knew when to push and when to ease off. I came with 15mm spikes in which wasn’t the best idea as the course was very dry. It was very windy in parts which was tough when running at the front on my own. I was so pleased to have won and come away with the Welsh Title. Huge thanks to the organisers & volunteers.Melanie Wilkins (Wycombe Phoenix Harriers – Welsh XC Champion 2020)
University of Alabama and Birmingham University alumni Rebecca Evans completed the podium, and led Cardiff AAC to the team title. Lliswerry Runners (78 Points) narrowly beat Les Croupiers (80 points) team to silver place – in reviewing the results we are unsure why Swansea Harriers aren’t mentioned as, from our calculations they scored 68 points.
Llinos Jones, Swasnea Harriers, finished 6th overall and took the MW35 title. Carmarthen Harriers Wendy Price was 1st in the MW40, Sandra Chipper (Lliswerry Runners) 1st MW45, Ceri Hooper (Les Croupiers) 1st MW50, Mary Anthony (Trots) 1st MW55, Julie Scholey (Les Croupiers) 1st MW60 and Eirian Arwyn (Les Croupiers) in the MW65
Congratulations to all runners!