Fechin McCormick

national men

The Nation's most prestigious cross-country event returned to it's spiritual home of Parliament Hill Fields in February for the 17th time following a missed 2021due to Covid-19.

ALAN WHITE, a member of the club's senior endurance section, described the 'National'' in an excellent article for Fast Running. “ Cricket has The Ashes. Golf has its majors. English football has Wembley. Horse racing has Cheltenham. Running has plenty of its own, but for English cross country, nothing quite matches the magnitude of the National. Many towns and cities have staged it, but when at Parliament Hill, the race is different. A national championship on another level. For many, it is the true home of English cross country, and once witnessed, the image of a never-ending sea of runners charging up the iconic uphill start lives on forever”.

If you've not done a 'National' at Parliament Hill wait and do the next one. Stand on top of that iconic hill up from the start line with London's skyscrapers as its backcloth and experience the ground thunder as the senior men explode from their 400m wide pens and charge up the hill forming an arrowhead as they speed for the top. I wish I could still do it!

Parliament Hill is a tough undulating course with killer hills and it tends to throw up everything from good underfoot conditions to having to plough through energy sapping mud and historically it's been run in horrendous snow, sleet and rain. This year's 8000 runners and thirteen age-groups who'd travelled from Gateshead and Morpeth and Penzance in Cornwall had good conditions but no-one escaped the stretches of thick, energy sapping mud thanks to February's storms Dudley, Eunice, Franklin and Gladys.

Sale Harriers enthusiasm for 'The National' is such that this year more seniors than any other club in Northern England travelled to the Capital - 34 senior men and women whereas Hallamshire had 25 and Leeds 20! For some it was the experience of taking part but for most it was the serious business of competing against the country's best, aiming for top positions and to win the prestigious team accolades and medals. Parliament Hill always attracts the best and this year's line-up's had their full compliment of national and regional champions in all the thirteen age-group races.

In the senior men's race, the club had NIGEL MARTIN cross the line in a brilliant 6th place. The club's top senior endurance runner of 2021 raced his first Parliament Hill 'National' in 2015and finished 159th . He wrote, “ I finally nailed 'it' with three MACCL wins (having previously never won a XC race), a win at the Gtr. Manchester Champs, 2nd at the 'Northern's' and now 6th at the 'National'. A medal was on my mind, but with Mahamed Mahamed, Emile Cairess and Alex Yee all running, they were always likely to lock the podium out' (as they did!). Let him inspire all you up and coming ambitious runners!

He led the club to 7th place - a performance consistent with 10th in 2020, 5th in 2019 and 10th in 2018. They were also the 2nd Northern club behind Leeds City AC who retained their silver medals from 2020 and were champions in 2019. The seven men behind Nigel all finished among the top 200 which speaks volumes for the club's depth, quality and ability to be more widely successful. Well done NICK BARRY (64th), DANIEL KASHI (100th ), PHIL ROBERTSON (112th), JAMES WIGNALL (112th ), WILLIAM ONEK (137th ), GAZ RAVEN (189th) and ALAN WHITE (193rd ) A special shout-out to evergreen M45 Gaz Raven who ran his 27th consecutive 'National'. That's awesome!

The club also had a top finisher in double Tokyo Olympic Triathlon medallist, GEORGIA TAYLOR-BROWN MBE who just missed the podium in 4th place. What a shame on her most most illustrious Olympian year! Georgia has cross-country in her heart and always finds the time to compete for the club when she's not on the World Triathlon circuit. She's won the National in 2014, was 3rd in 2017 and 4th in 2018 and 2019. This year, she led the club home for 16th place thanks to ALICE WRIGHT (68th), JULIET DOWNS (86th) and ANNE CHINOY but, without some of the other key players missing who massively contributed to the club's success on the Northern & MACCL circuit throughout the winter, they were unlikely to return to the podium where they stood as National XC champions in 2018. For the record they were 10th in 2020 and 14th in 2019. Leeds City AC won this year's title.

The younger age-groups all had the experience of their lives. Many ran their first 'National' and to a person, all deserve the heartiest clap on the back. Parents, coaches and team managers will be very proud of their commitment, grit and determination that the 'National' demands. The U13 boys - JAKE ROYLE, ALEX FRAZER, LIAM O'BRIEN, ED SPARKS and DAN OAKES were 10th team this year. In 2020 the section were 4th , 6th in 2019 and 3rd in 2018. Congratulations to neighbours Trafford AC who were the champions.

The U13 girls were also 10th , a position remarkably consistent with their recent 'Nationals'. They were 11th in 2020,12th in 2019 and 11th in 2018. Well done to the club's starlets who've been awesome throughout the winter - ISOBEL HALL, OONAGH Mc MANUS, IMOGEN HILL, PHEOBE CARROLL and AMBER WEBB.

The U15 boy's have also been incredibly consistent in this Championship. They were 21st team this year exactly as in 2018 and they were 9th in 2020. As ever, well done to the squad of OSCAR SCHOFIELD, FINLAY DAY, JAMES O'BRIEN, SAM PEARCE, ALFIE CLARE and JOE SPARK. Oscar was a brilliant 4th and what a pity he just missed a medal. This fast improving young runner was 58th in 2019 and 32nd last time ….so what progress!

The U15 girls just had ISABELLA APPLEBY and SOPHIE ARMITAGE fly the club flag and well done again to these two club stalwarts of their age-group throughout the MACCL season. Recruit a few more and win medals next year!

The U17 girls were similar to the U15 girls with only AKIRA EDGSON and CARMEN SAFRANAUSKAS on the start line. Akira, the Northern U17 3000m champion, seemed to love the mud and finished an excellent 47th. Carmen, a club stalwart of the MACCL cross-country was 156th.

The U17 boy's were arguably one of the day's highlights. Their 12th finishing position was their section's first time in seven years to finish a team. Well done EVAN & EWAN SAVAGE, CHARLIE TITTENSOR, LUKE CHINOY, JACK SPARK, JOSHUA COLQUNOUN-LYNN and BEN EDWARD. Keep together lads....keep strong....and be on that podium in 2023.

The club's junior men and women are sections that struggle nationally to recruit numbers even though some southern clubs like Tonbridge Wells and Aldershot, this year's champions and silver medallists, seem to regularly medal and finish in top positions in this championship. Is it more than another North/South divide? For the ninth consecutive year, Sale Harriers recorded no junior men's team and had only ROBBIE RIGBY and ZAC GALLEMIN on the start line. Well done, guys for 'flying that club flag '. The junior women were more successful finishing a team in 5th , particularly encouraging in that it was the first time since 2018 their section recorded a team result when they were also the National champions.

The National XC Championships brought an end to the winter's cross-country season. Thanks to everyone involved and that includes the indispensable team managers, parents and coaches Onwards now to an ever greater 2022/3.

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