Manchester Area Cross Country League, Tatton Park, 13th Jan 2024 

Joe Steward led a ‘crimson tide’ in this third match as Salford Harriers dominated the men’s race, on a dry and crisp Saturday afternoon, Stephen Green Reports. The Northern Cross Country champion was at the fore of a group of around half a dozen athletes on the first of three large laps across the firm ground, including Marc Brown and winner of the previous match Aaron Doyle. Through the series of fields and steep inclines by the lake, Steward held a commanding lead of around 100m at midway which he extended to around 30 seconds by the tape. Doyle moved into second place, 50m to the good from Salford’s Josh Dutton, with teammate Brown, around 30m in arrears. The first U20 home was Buxton’s Caleb Winfield (26th), whilst the first M40 home was Mike Holness of East Cheshire (20th).

Sophie Wood and Bethany Donnelly fought out a classic duel in the fields of Knutsford. Prolific racer Wood, in great form recently, was into an early lead on the first medium ‘parade lap’ followed by the winner of the previous two matches Emily Kearney. Salford’s Donnelly, who has recently returned from a spell at Colorado State University (Pueblo) moved away from Kearney on lap two, and began her pursuit of Wood, passing her just before the sharp descent to the Lake on the third and final circuit. However, a determined Wood (who has a 5k road best of 16:03) retook the lead on the flat and kept a two second margin by the tape. Alice Wright had a terrific race, to pass Kearney in the latter stages, to take third around 40m to the good. England XC International Lucy Armitage was the first U20 in fifth. First L35 was Tracy Rogers of West Cheshire in seventh spot. Sale prevailed in the team standings with a one-point victory over Salford.

Stockport’s Freya Murdoch continued her good form in the U17 girls’ series, the best part of a minute ahead of Nia Griffin, with Jasmine Wright taking third. St Helen’s Liam Johnson finished around 30m ahead of Jay Hutchinson with Michael Wood, third in the boys’ counterpart.

Holly Cross, of Liverpool Harriers stormed to a forty second win over Isla Pastor, who was just ahead of Oonagh McManus in the U15 girls’ race. Trafford’s Pio Aron moved seven seconds clear of teammate Finlay Dobson Emma with Zach Rose third, in the boys’ section. Isla Yorke led a Warriors clean sweep of the U13 girls’ race, around 150m ahead of Eve Beddow with Isla Beddow close behind in third. Wirral’s Bobby Birkett edged a sprint finish to emerge top U13 boy.

Bleu Bailey, guesting from Staffs, emerged a runaway winner of the U11 girls with Daisy McVicar second, and Poppy McKenna third. Tommy Calland got the verdict over Warrior’s teammate Bobby Hughes with Toby Hansen third in the U11 boys’ section.

Stephen Green