Ollie Lockley produced the standout performance of the twelve local athletes chosen to represent Lancashire in last Saturday’s Inter Counties Cross Country Championships at Prestwold Hall, a country estate on the outskirts of Loughborough.
In a race that was the selection trial for the Great Britain team for the World Cross Country Championships later this month, Lockley finished in a superb eleventh position, a performance that demonstrated that a British vest is a realistic target for him in the near future.
The senior men’s and women’s races were both held over a distance that was officially given as ten kilometres, though the technology worn on the wrists of the competitors indicated that the distance was some 500 metres further than this. The decision to equalise the senior men’s and women’s distances this year was a controversial one which did not meet with the unanimous approval of the athletes – previously the men have competed over twelve kilometres and the women over eight.
Lockley judged his race superbly over the rolling terrain on an extremely windy day, holding a position around the top 30 in the early stages before moving smoothly through the field as the race progressed. In the final quarter he found himself in a group of three battling for 11th place, but powered away to take the place with plenty to spare. It was a magnificent run, the only local athlete to have ever placed higher in the senior men’s race being Keith Gerrard who memorably won it in 2012.
Alan Corlett, a late addition to the team, also produced his best performance at this event with a 58th place finish. Like his teammate he became progressively stronger and gained countless places in the second half of the race. The two Manxmen were part of the silver medal winning Lancashire team in the six-man team contest and were gold medal winners in the nine-man contest.
David Mullarkey also earned plaudits for his 19th place finish in the Junior Men’s race which was the first event of the day. This was another mature performance from an athlete who has found great consistency this winter and who should do very well on the track this summer.
The nine-strong Lancashire Senior Women’s team included a remarkable five Manx athletes, the biggest local representation ever in a race at these championships. Sarah Astin continued her rehabilitation from injury with a strong run for 28th place, looking noticeably fitter than two weeks earlier in the English National Championships. Middle distance specialist Rachael Franklin found the longer race distance hard going but as ever battled every step of the way to finish in a good 49th place.
Elissa Morris celebrated her 30th birthday with a fine run to finish 123rd and looked to be enjoying the race more than anyone. Gail Griffiths was one of the oldest competitors in the field but proved that she is still competitive against much younger rivals with 175th place, while Karen Shimmin completed the Manx representation with a gritty run to place 184th.
Lorna Spiers, still an under-17, helped the Lancashire team by stepping up an age group, and also in distance, to run in the Junior Women’s race. She placed a highly creditable 63rd in a race that also included the World Championship trial.
Also placing 63rd in the under 13 girls’ race was Macy Hillier who ran impressively and looks to be getting back to her best form in time for the summer season.
Ella Crowe has enjoyed a fine winter season and she continued in the same vein with a 113th place finish in the under 15 girls’ race in her first year in the age group.
Sam Perry was the only member of the local contingent to debut for Lancashire this year, and he proved himself worthy of his county vest with a strong run to place 253rd in a big field in the under 13 boys’ race. He is in his first year in the age group and this experience will greatly help his progress in the sport.
12 March 2019