Sunshine, showers, a raging gale and the cream of UK cross country running provided the challenging conditions for Harborough AC’s representatives at the 2019 Inter-Counties Championships held at Prestwold Hall, near Loughborough. Running for Leicestershire & Rutland in the county all-black colours six club members had been selected to compete for the county in what is widely regarded as the highest standard cross-country race in the domestic calendar.
The first race of the day saw Harborough’s Tom Fortnum in the under-20 men’s race over 8k. Fortnum’s first season running cross country ended on a high, with a time of 40:19 for 183rd place, part of the Leicestershire team that finished in 21st.
Next up was Sarah Ward, a late call-up to the senior women’s county team following her recent Midlands Indoor Championships gold medal. Running 1,500m indoors is a different proposition from running 10 kilometres up and down hills, over variable ground conditions and in changeable weather (described by British Athletics as “incredibly difficult conditions”) but Ward stood up to the challenge to deliver 223rd place in 49-01, with the Leicestershire team ending 19th.
The under-15 boys race included 313 finishers, with HAC’s Adam Barber impressing over 4 kilometres to complete the course in 15-03 for 178th place, third home for the county in their 30th place.
Harborough AC provided half of the six-strong county under-17 women’s team competing over 5 kilometres, with Eilidh Maclean providing the highest finish for club members on the day, missing out by two seconds on a top-100 placing, with a strong run for 103rd place and a time of 22-22, supported by Beth Wallis (146th in 22-56) and Lizzie Clapp (184th in 23-56), helping the county team to 18th.
Club representative Will Clapp commented: “It was a tough day to be spectating, let alone competing! To have six members selected to race for the county is a testament to the hard work that the club’s coaches and the runners themselves have put in over the season. To put our runners’ performances into perspective: they’re all amongst the top 250 in their age-groups, so in footballing terms they’re Championship or even Premier League standard – very impressive for a small club like ours. Some of the runners will be in action again on Saturday at Temple Newsam Park, near Leeds for the final big cross-country event of the season: the English Schools Championships, involving six races over distances between 3 and 6.7 kilometres. The age-groups are different from those at the Inter-Counties so the county teams will be different, but we’re expecting at least four runners to make the final teams and the club wishes them all the best for a successful end to the season”.