The Combined SIAB and Home Countries Cross Country International took place at the Margam Park Estate on Saturday.
Warm and dry weather conditions and a relatively firm course made for competitive racing at the 850 acre Estate, near Port Talbot in South Wales.
The stunning Margam Castle offered a scenic backdrop to the four SIAB races and to the U20 & Senior Home Countries International races that traditionally close the Cross Country season in the UK and Ireland.
The Junior Girls pictured near the start
The programme began with the SIAB match where England dominated taking all four team titles and two of the four Individual titles.
The first success of the day however went to Lilly-Jane Evans-Heggarty competing for Scottish Schools in the Junior Girls race.
English Schools Champion Sian Heslop was next home, leading her team to victory backed up by Caitlin Robinson in third.
Aimee Callow (Cardiff Archers) led the Welsh Schools team home in 11th place. Her team finished ahead of Ireland Schools in third.
The Junior Boy’s race followed and saw absolute domination for England who took the first seven places, led by the English Schools Champion Tommy Dawson.
Ethan Hussey and Oliver Bright shared the podium with Dawson, finishing in that order.
Joseph Reardon finished in eigth place, behind the English Schools athletes but ahead of competitors from any other team. Welsh Schools again finished third but this time it was Ireland Schools who finished second.
The Middle Girls race saw Olivia Mason winning with a comfortable margin. Her English Schools team were also emphatic winners with Claudia Lance- Jones and Emily Williams next home.
Mia Roberts (Deeside AAC) was the first Welsh Athletes in the middle girls race in seventh. Roberts has enjoyed a succesful season which included third at the UK Inter-Counties Championships but this time stepped up an age group.
Darragh McElhinney of Ireland Schools was a large favourite for the Middle Boys title. The Irish 3,000m record holder was aiming for his third SIAB Cross Country title. He took victory over English Schools Athletes Lalchlan Wellington and Zakariya Mahamed. Nathan Jones in 12th led the Welsh Schools team to Bronze medals.
Erin Wallace of Scotland explained how the U20 women’s race unfolded saying; ‘’I tried to stick with the pack for much of and bit by bit there was less of us until it was down to two. On the last bit I was absolutely dying so I was surprised to win’’.
Abbie Williams (Pembrokeshire Harriers) was the first Welsh athlete in 14th, helping her Wales team to fifth, ahead of Welsh Schools and Northern Ireland & Ulster.
The front of the U20 Men's race
The U20 Men’s race was always likely to be decided between the English trio of Ellis Cross, Gus Cockle and Petros Surafel.
It was English National Champion Cross however who overcame Cockle, the 2016 Inter-Counties Champion and the BUCS fourth placer Surafel.
European U18 1500m Champion Jake Heyward (Cardiff AAC) led the chasing pack for much of the race, finishing fourth and steering his Welsh Schools team to fifth. Matthew Willis (Wrexham AAC) was the first scorer for the Wales team who took the podium in Bronze.
England’s Juliet Potter was a runaway winner in the Senior Women’s contest. Potter’s win led her England team to another victory with Scotland again finishing in second.
Her twin sister Jane competed for Midland Counties, out running England’s Faye Fullerton who finished third.
Wales claimed further Bronze team medals in the women's race with Clara Evans (Pontypridd Roadents) in eighth, Beth Kidger (Brighton Phoenix) in 10th, Carys Hughes (Cardiff AAC) 13th and Lucy Marland (Cardiff AAC) 15th.
The Senior Men’s race began steadily with a large group contesting the first lap. The group thinned slightly by the half way point and in the final stages it was Richard Horton who ran away from Scotland’s Murray Strain to take individual Gold.
James Hunt pictured in the red of Wales
After Strain it was Jack Gray of Midland Counties who held off early leader Daniel Cliffe to take Bronze. Horton’s efforts helped his England team to beat Scotland by just one point.
James Hunt (Cardiff AAC), Adam Bull (Aberdare VAAC) and Paul Graham (Pontypridd Roadents) finished in 15th, 16th and 18th place respectively.
Pictures by Paul Stillman