Debut Welsh Cross Country titles for James Hunt and Bronwen Owen.
James Hunt stormed to a first Welsh Cross Country title on a crisp and sunny afternoon in Swansea.
The Cardiff AAC man is enjoying a successful season but his win on the weekend will undoubtedly be the highlight of his career to date.
James Hunt taking victory
Pre-race favourite Dewi Griffiths was searching for a seventh consecutive Welsh title but uncharacteristically sat in behind the leading runners in the early stages.
As the race approached the second half of the 10,100m route around Singleton Park, Hunt began to prove too strong for the chasing pack which began to splinter.
Phil Matthews of Swansea Harriers had finished third at two previous editions of the championships and was hoping for a first title here. He was the last athlete to stay in touch with the race leader but eventually had to settle for the runner up spot and a master 35 title.
Dan Nash was the next Cardiff AAC athlete home and third overall. He wasn’t able to help his team to a club title however with Swansea proving the strongest in depth and the Cardiff team short of a last scorer.
The Harriers team crown came despite star man Dewi Griffiths retiring on the second large lap, unable to add a seventh consecutive title to his racing portfolio but still on target for Steve Jones’ record of nine titles.
Behind Swansea, Aberdare Valley AAC claimed silver team medals led by Dan Bodman. Swansea Harriers B team secured bronze medals, led by Matthew Richards.
Hunt commented on his victory saying; ‘’It’s unbelievable, I can’t believe I won. It hasn’t really sunk in yet. There was a group of us in the first half but I was really strong in the second half, I kicked on the downhill and moved away and I didn’t look back’’.
Bronwen Owen of Scarborough AC ran away from a quality women’s field to add a win here to her 2015 junior women’s title from Corwen in North Wales.
Mel Wilkins (498) and Beth Kidger (477) in the early leading group
Similarly to the men’s race, a large leading group contested the opening stages which included 2017 champion Beth Kidger of Brighton Pheonix, Mel Wilkins of Winchester AC and the Swansea duo of Sian Edwards and Alaw Beynon-Thomas.
When Owen finally made her break, it was Kidger who was most able to cover the move but as Owen turned up the heat, she faded to second, unable to repeat her win from 12 months ago. Next home was Kidger with Wilkins taking her first medal at a Welsh Senior Championships in third.
Edwards was fourth, leading her Swansea Harriers team to reclaim the team crown from last year’s winners, Cardiff AAC who were second this time. The Harriers B team took the remaining podium spot.
Owen commented on her victory saying; ‘’The course was quite tough actually but not as muddy as some that I’ve done recently. I didn’t expect to win but I wanted to medal. I didn’t know who the competition was but it was a good standard’’. ‘’It was me, Beth and Mel for quite a while and I didn’t get the lead until around 800m to go’’.
Bronwen Owen taking a debut Welsh senior title
Dominic Smith took the top Welsh honours in the junior men’s race just behind race winner, namesake and Swansea Harrier team mate Connor Smith.
Cardiff AAC’s Abigail Fisher was the victor in the U17/U20 women’s race with u17 men’s victory for club mate Larry Ryan.
The start of the U15 girls race
Mike Spill retained his under 15 boys title with fellow Menai Track & Field AC athlete Samia Jones claiming victory in the girls equivalent age group. Frank Morgan of Carmarthen Harriers and Neisha Roberts of Deeside AAC had claimed u13 titles earlier in the day.
The 114th Welsh Cross Country Championships will take place at Singleton Park in Swansea on Saturday 24th February 2018. The event will incorporate the Welsh Masters Cross Country Championships and a Primary Schools Challenge event.
Closing date for the championships is 4.30pm on 15th February
Information for Team Managers, Athletes, Spectators & Officials
Car Parking Information
Free car parking is available on Oystermouth Road, alongside the St Helens Rugby Ground: SA2 0AU. This is close to the access to the park which will be clearly marked.
The event headquarters (Race HQ) including registration, will be located alongside the Swiss Cottage in a red Welsh Athletics Marquee, as indicated on the course map.
Team Managers are required to collect their athletes numbers at Race HQ. Any athlete who is not part of a Welsh club, will need to collect their own number. This area will open at 9:30am and numbers must be declared at least 45 minutes before their race start time.
Hot and cold food and drinks will be sold at the venue. Hot drinks & snacks will be sold inside the large marquee and hot food will be sold opposite race HQ.
Shelter and baggage
The large marquee will offer dry shelter and seating. Bags can be left there but it is recommended that club tents may be a more secure place to leave your kit.
Master Age Groups
A master athlete must be entered in the age group that they wish to score with their club team. They will not be able to change teams after entry. They will also score as part of their club's senior team. The athlete will be scored as an individual in their correct age-group.
Teams will be scored with the following number of competitors in each age group;
Primary Races - 4
U13 Boys & Girls – 4
U15Boys & Girls – 4
U17 Men – 4
U17 & U20 Women – 4
U20 Men - 4
Senior Women – 4
Senior Men – 6
Master Women – 3
Master Men - 3
Presentations will be in a large red Welsh Athletics Marquee, alongside the main food marquee, following each race, as soon as results can be ratified.
Presentations will be for the first three individuals and the winning teams.
In 2018 non-Welsh eligible athletes will be allowed to score for their Welsh Club Team.
- Toilets are available at the toilet block as marked on the course map.
- Shower facilities are available at Swansea University (Swimming Pool).
- There is a large area designated for club tents as indicated on the course map.
- Marshals are located around the course and will be wearing fluorescent BIBS to make them easily identified.
- FIRST AID cover is provided by St Johns on the day, with an ambulance sited near the start, and an on foot presence on the fields whilst races are in operation. Any situation arising that requires First Aid treatment anywhere on the course must be reported immediately to an event marshal who can summon First Aid personnel.
- Health & Safety at Cross Country events – Athletes are advised that Health & Safety regulations recommend that you should examine the course for potential hazards before competing.
Dewi Griffiths recorded a sixth consecutive Welsh Cross Country title on Saturday to move a step closer to Steve Jones' record of nine in total.
The championships in Swansea were lucky to escape the fierce storms that had been predicted for the weekend with only light rain for much of the day.
The course at Singleton park has a great history of hosting Cross Country racing and is always a popular venue because of it’s undulating terrain and scenic landscape.
Dewi Griffiths claiming his sixth title as a senior
Dewi Griffiths was never likely to be stopped in the senior men’s race and the Uk Inter-Counties Champion took victory by over a minute.
Behind Griffiths, the silver medal went to Ryan Mcflynn of Mickey Morris Racing Team, running incredibly well to overcome Iolo Hughes (Sale Harriers), who sealed the bronze medal.
Griffiths also led his Swansea Harriers team to a dominant win in the team category.
He was clearly delighted afterwards, stating; ‘’In 113 editions of the Welsh Cross Country Championships I’m the only one to have won six in a row and I think that is something that I’ll only truly appreciate when i’ve retired’’.
The women’s race saw a first title for the relatively unkown Beth Kidger of Brighton Phoenix.
Beth Kidger pictured at the finish
Clara Evans (Pontypridd Roadents) had been amongst the pre-race favourites but had to settle for second on the day.
Lucy Marland was next home in third, leading her Cardiff AAC team to take the title away from defending champions Swansea Harriers.
Kidger commented on the conditions saying; ‘’ The course was tough and very muddy, a real cross country course’’.
She added; ‘’I went in to the race not knowing what to expect but with a target in my mind of getting into the top three. I was a dedicated junior but have not been competing properly since the age of 17’’.
‘’Winning the Welsh title was a great achievement for me and has given me a massive drive to make a real comeback. It was fantastic to win my first national’’.
The start of the senior women's race
Ciaran Lewis improved on his silver medal from last year to win the U20 men’s race ahead of Gareth Griffiths (Tipton Harriers) and Matthew Williams (Pem brokeshire Harriers).
Cari Hughes (Menai Track & Field) was another UK Inter-Counties Champion in action on Saturday. Her title last March came at U17 level but the talented North Walian was unstoppable in the U20 women’s race this time.
Heidi Davies (Brecon AC) was second for her Brecon AC club with Bethan Evans (Cardiff AAC) in third.
English Schools Champion Matthew Willis (Wrexham AAC) won the U17 men’s race with Carys Bill securing an U17 win in the ladies equivalent age group and leading her Cardiff AAC team to a comfortable victory.
Mike Spill (Menai Track & Field) claimed victory by just six seconds in a competitve U15 boys contest with Welsh Schools Champion Mia Roberts (Deeside AAC) retaining her Welsh title in the U15 girls event.
Cardiff AAC duo Jacob Reynolds and Eden Williams took the U13 boys and girls titles respectively.
The championships also incorporates the Welsh Masters Cross Country Championships.
Angus Mclean (Swansea Harriers) retained his M35 crown from 12 months ago. Martin Shaw (Brecon AC) claimed the M40 title and Eamonn Kirk (Swansea Harriers) won the M45 category.
Mike Pfeiffer (Brecon AC) improved on his silver medal from last year at M50 level. Ifan Lloyd (Swansea Harriers) kept his M55 title with Alan Davies of Llanelli AC crowned as M60 champion.
Ron Morris (San Domenico), Gordon Orme (Carmarthen Harriers ) and Dave Martin (Rhondda AC) took M65, M70 and M75 honours.
The women's race saw Katie Beecher (Les Croupiers) claim the M35 win and Sarah Kearney (Wirral AC) take M40 honours.
Sandra Chipper (Lliswerry Runners), Sue Watson (Les Croupiers), Angharad Mair (Les Croupiers) and Fiona Davies (Pontypridd Roadents) took the W45, W50, W55 and W60 titles respectively.
Swansea Harriers took the mass participation award, with 41 athletes in the senior / masters races.
Pics by Paul Stillman