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SIAB Cross Country 2024 Round-Up

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25/03/2024 00:00, In Blog /

The SIAB Cross Country International took place at the home of Irish Sport and on the same course used for the European Cross Country Championships in 2021. Athletes made the short transfer to the course from the overnight accommodation following the flight from Birmingham on the Friday ahead of the event.

Following the recent weather conditions across the British Isles, the course change was made due to concerns around the traditional Irish Schools course at Santry Demense. Dry, if blustery, weather conditions and a fast, undulating and firm course made for competitive racing The course presented to athletes involved combinations of 1k and 1500m loops which made up the varying distances usual for the Junior and Middle age groupings.

The programme began with the Junior Girls race where English Schools dominated with 7 of their athletes finishing within the top10. Bryony Boyce (Cathedral School) fought hard throughout but had to settle for 12th. place on the line, with good support from Nansi Griffiths (Greenhill) and Heather Watson (Hawarden) in 18th and 20th. respectively, the team took a well-deserved bronze medal behind the Irish in second.

The Junior Boy’s race followed and with 4 more top 20 finishers, Tom Garrod (Rougemont) had a fine run to finish 9th. as did Lewis Davies (Maes Garmon) in 12th. Again, they were well backed up by Finlay Burns (Cardiff High) and Alfie Bartley-Rose (Connah’s Quay). This was again enough to secure the second team medal of the day, again a bronze, this time behind England and Scotland.   

The Middle Girls race saw the best individual performance of the day as an inspired Libby Hale (Bishopston) took the race to the English Schools Team, applying pressure with sustained pace throughout. By the time the race entered the last lap she had reduced the lead group to just 3. With around 400m to go it appeared that Libby had done enough to secure the win opening a 10-15m gap with another positive move. However, it was the two English girls, working together, who had the sprint finishes needed to take gold and silver. Libby had to settle for bronze in what was the most competitive and compelling race of the day. Girls team captain Millie Gold (St Illtyd’s) again finished strongly in 9th. with Amelia Williams (Bro Teifi) and Madison Hughes (Llanidloes) finishing top 20 as the team matched the individual bronze medal.

Non-availability and injury had resulted in a number of changes to the Middle Boys Team and a lack of experience was always going to present challenges. However, the team will benefit from the experience of this opportunity and many are still eligible for the 2025 event. Samuel Boyce (Cathedral) was the first finisher in 23rd.     

The SIAB event now closes with 2 mixed relay events over 4 1500m legs. This has proved to be a highly popular addition to the timetable and again both races used the familiar race order of girl, boy, girl boy. Welsh Schools had adopted a slightly different approach in selection for this year’s races with the 1500m champions from the Welsh Indoor Championships pre-selected as members of the relay team, the additional team members being picked following the WSAA Cross Country. Race strategy was to lead off with the 1500m specialists which meant that Tamsin Seguin (Friars) and Macsen Watts (Gwynllyw) ran the first 2 legs in the Junior team. In the second race the first 2 legs went to Olivia Morgan (Cathedral) and boys team captain Thomas Loynes (Llangatwg). Despite being competitive throughout both teams were outside the medal places this time around.

The teams were well supported by Team Lead Steve Jones (WSAA Vice Chairman) and a management team of Donna Welsh (Coleg Cambria), Ffion Price (Ysgol Canol Cymru), Andrew Jenkins (Welsh Athletics) and John Messum (Menai Track & Field). In addition, Dai Gatehouse (SIAB Vice Chairman) and Dai Williams (WSAA Treasurer) provided additional help over the weekend.

The thanks of the entire management team go to all the athletes who performed so well, our colleagues at Irish Schools and Athletics Ireland and the small army of families and friends who were so vocal and provided such encouragement around the course. A special mention should also go to Bethan Davies (Welsh Athletics) for her tireless work behind the scenes and Nathan Jones (Dyfed Schools) for his work on our social media platforms. We now look ahead to hosting the Track & Field at Carmarthen in July.