Kent Cross Country Championships, Brands Hatch – Saturday 7th January 2023

The Kent Cross-Country Championships was held on the fields surrounding Brands Hatch race course on Saturday 7th January 2023. The course for the Senior men’s 12 Km race was the same as in 2022, but the weather conditions different, last year very wet, this year very windy. Medway & Maidstone AC Senior Men had a very good team entered, although injuries and sickness reduced the number of runners on the day to 15 as well as affecting some that did run.  In spite of this, the team had a very good day, improving their bronze medal positions in 2022 to silver this year in both the 6-to-score and 12-to-score team competitions.  

The overall 6-to-score team winners were Tonbridge, followed by Medway & Maidstone AC, Kent AC taking bronze.  Tonbridge AC also claimed the 12-to-score team win, again followed by M & M with silver and Kent A C taking bronze.

The overall individual winner was James Kingston of Tonbridge covering the 12 Km course in 39.33.  The silver medal place was claimed by Marshall Smith of Ashford  (40.51), Alexander Howard of Tonbridge AC (41.01) taking bronze .

The first runner home for Medway & Maidstone AC was Teweldebrahn Menges, in 7th in 42.01. This was a 7 place and 2 minute improvement on 2022. Second scorer for the club was Hamish Reilly (U20) in 9th. This was Reilly’s first cross-country run for some time as he mainly concentrates on Triathlon, regularly competing for Great Britain.  He was 3rd in the recent Under 23 World Triathlon Championships in Abu Dhabi.  Ben Tyler was 12th (43.03), followed by a great run from relatively newcomer Jordan Howes in 23rd (44.34), Marley Godden in 28th (44.55) and Jamie Walsh in his first Kent Champs was 32nd (45.07) to close the 6-to-score team.

Just missing out on the 6 man team by one place was Daniel St Martin in 33rd.  Tom Collins, was further back than normal as he was suffering from a bug (47th). Jonathan Whittall continued his improving form in 55th, followed closely in 57th by Owen Featherstone, another improving athlete. Justin Lane was 68th and Neill Wright in 70th to close the 12 man team.  Alex Donnelly 77th, Harry Collins 122nd and Bob Fursey (now an M60) 155th, all had solid runs.

The next cross-country races for the men are the Kent Fitness League (KFL) at Deal on the 15th January,  Southern Championships on the 28th January at Beckenham, KFL at Canterbury 5th February, Kent League at Bromley 11th February, KFL at Allhallows 12thFebruary and the National Championships in Chester on the 25th February. 

With no U20 runners finishing, and only two M&M U17 men, Franklin Shepherd run a strong race to finish in 8thplace (21:58) with Riley Maisey 16th (23:03).  

There were plenty of newcomers in the U15 Boys team over the longer 4400m course, Ryan Fisher narrowly missed out on a bronze medal when finishing 4th on his debut (16:03), he was involved in a three-way battle for third place which continued right to the line , Henry Gibson was 16th (17:03), Theo Ronchetti was 22nd (17:20) and the team of four was completed by debutant Maxime Foissy 47th (20:00), Lewis Moon was the third of the debutants and finished in 54th place (21:32). The team finished just outside the medals in 4th place.

The U13 Boys team had a great race over 3050m. Freddie Gibson continued his excellent form from the cross country league to take the win by six seconds in 11:27, he was followed home by the ever improving Louie Gear in 9th (11:59), Connor Cousins in 10th (12:10) and Daniel Kershaw 42nd (13:26). The team finishing in third place overall. 

There were five ladies representing the Senior Women over the 8350m course. First back for the ladies, with another strong run, was Emily Hales in 15th. With both Jenny Fowler (51st) and Taryne McPherson (52nd) neck and neck for much of the course. They were followed closely by Karen Cudmore (61st) and Bernadette Harrop (91st). The team finished 8th in the 3 to score category.

M&M had a total of 7 Under 17 Women and 3 Under 20 Women competing.  Both age groups competed together in the same race over a distance of 6.1km.  In the Under 20 Women event, Annabel Young finished in 9th place, followed by Ciara Harrop in 17th and Sharne Elphick in 19th place.  The U20W team placed 4th in the team event.  Well done to all the M&M women for a strong turnout in difficult conditions.

In the Under 17 Women’s event, Abigail Royden was first over the line for M&M in an excellent fourth place, securing automatic Kent team selection for the upcoming Inter Counties event in Loughborough.  She was followed by Lily Crossley (7th) and Beth Palmer in 8th in the team scoring positions to secure M&M second place in the team event.  Closely behind them were Natalia Austin (11th), Lola Sutton (14th), Abigail Hawkes (15th) and Mercedes McGivern (19th).

The Under 15 Girls team came into the race as having recently been crowned Kent League Champions. Despite the cold and windy conditions, the M&M prowess shone through once again. In a tense race, Amber Matthews finished strongly to gain 2nd place, (17:57), Iris Crossley was 4th (18:09) and Rose Crossley 8th (18:22) to make up the 3 to score team. The M&M strength in depth that enabled success in the league was evident once again with Sophia Cudmore Smith and Heidi Hughes finishing 10th (18:49) and 18th (19:41) respectively. After a tough day of racing the Under 15 Girls were announced as 2023 Kent Champions, cementing the M&M dominance over cross country this season.

In the Under 13 girls event Olivia Baker battled hard in tough conditions to lead the M&M team home in 18th place (14:08). Gwennan Thomas was next home in 26th (14:48) and the M&M then packed tightly against a strong field with Keira Benson Dare in 34th (16:11) and Matilda Moisan in 35th (16:17). This was another fantastic result for a relatively inexperienced junior team and bodes well for the future.