Today’s generation of Manx cross country runners will have grown up listening to tales from their elders about what ‘proper’ cross country courses used to be like back in their day. Those who ran in the Microgaming IOM Cross Country Championships at the Nunnery on Sunday 21 January 2018, organised by Manx Harriers, no longer have to wonder what those races used to be like because they have now experienced it for themselves.
The course on the Nunnery Estate on the outskirts of Douglas, used for the first time last season and amended this season, is a tough one in good conditions with constantly undulating ground including lots of sharp hills. After the torrential rain throughout Saturday night and the first half of Sunday, large sections of the race route had been reduced to quagmires which tugged at the legs, shoes and wills of all the competitors. However the coup de grace was the short section of marshland at the far end of the course, which by Sunday afternoon had become flooded by water that was waist deep. All the competitors negotiated this unexpected hazard safely, though several inadvertently resorted to swimming!
Alan Corlett and Rachael Franklin have dominated the local cross country scene in recent years, and both retained their senior titles in superb style in the desperately difficult conditions. The men’s race, held over four laps and a distance of 9,800 metres, was initially led by Ollie Lockley, making a very welcome local cross country appearance. He was tracked by U20 athlete David Mullarkey with Corlett holding back in third place. By lap two Lockley and Corlett were together at the front having pulled clear of Mullarkey, who in turn was well clear of the chasing pack.
As the race moved into its second half it was clear that Corlett was more comfortable with the conditions than his friend and rival, and he had opened a lead of about 40 metres which he continued to extend to a 33-second margin at the finish. It was a great performance by the Manx Harriers athlete to win his fourth consecutive senior title, equalling the record of Kevin Loundes who won the previous four events.
Ollie Lockley battled away to finish second, whilst David Mullarkey produced a really fine run to finish third overall and to win the junior title. Andy Barron was third senior with a strong performance, and not far behind him came the second junior William Draper. The latter is best known as a cyclist but proved conclusively that he is a fine runner too.
Rachael Franklin dominated the three-lap women’s race and took victory by just under a minute from Island Games teammate Elissa Morris. Rachael led from the start and looked strong and composed throughout in the horrendous conditions. This was her fifth senior title in the past six years, having missed the 2016 race through injury – a wonderful record.
Elissa Morris produced a fine run to finish second, with third place going to veteran athlete Gail Griffiths who is such a consistent performer. These three Manx Harriers athletes, plus Karen Shimmin, will be competing in the North of England Championships this weekend where they took the team bronze medal last year. The junior title went to Aimee Cringle, who excels at many athletics disciplines and showed what a strong cross country runner she is too.
The afternoon had opened with the under-nine races round one lap of the bottom field, and these produced wins for Alec Sorby – completing a clean sweep of victories in the league series – and Abi Clayton. This was a great result for Abi who has been in the top three in the previous races but this was her first win. Well done to the other medallists Liam Blake, Noah Campbell, Libby Curphey and M’Kyla Quinn.
The U11s raced over two laps of the bottom field. The boys’ race featured Lancashire champion Sam Perry who ran so superbly in Blackburn earlier this month. It shows the strength of this category that Sam has not quite managed a win in the local series this winter, with Cian Howard taking his fourth win in a row – by just one second this time! The girls’ race was won in fine style by Chloe O’Neill, who also completed a clean sweep for the series. The other medals went to Charlie Teare, Florence Griffin and Lucy Ormsby.
The U13 athletes were the youngest to run the full lap including the water crossing, and they coped admirably. The two winners in this category, Gethin Owen and Macy Hillier, are extremely promising athletes and they proved it once again with excellent runs in conditions they have not encountered before. Everyone did well, and congratulations go to Nathan Cannell, Finn Murphy, Mairi Harrison and Catherine Perry who were the other medallists.
One of the real finds of the season has been Corrin Leeming in the U15 boys’ category. He has impressed in every race this winter and looks a really accomplished cross country runner who would do very well if he competed in off-island events. He completed a full house of wins for the season, with the other medals going to Ieuan Owen and TJ Phair. Alice Cashin showed great commitment over the very difficult terrain to win the U15 girls’ title, with Holly Burgess also performing admirably.
Lorna Spiers produced her usual neat, tidy and strong performance to take an impressive win in the U17 women’s race, with the men’s equivalent race being won by Luke Phair who is also making fine progress as a distance runner.
The non-championship short course races were won by Mark Corrin and Emily Curphey.
The full results are here.
Extra special thanks go to all the officials and marshals who went beyond the call of duty to brave the cold and the rain to put on an unforgettable event. Thanks also to the Department of Infrastructure, the Nunnery Estate and their tenants D Rawnsley and P Kermode for use of the land, and to series sponsor Microgaming.
The prize presentation for both the championships and the league will take place at the Claremont Hotel in Douglas on Friday 23 March – more details to follow.