CALLUM Abberley is now ranked as one of the best young runners in the country following a top five finish in Saturday’s UK Inter Counties Cross Country Championships.
The Burton Athletics Club runner was making his county debut after qualifying to represent Staffordshire in the under-13 boys’ race at Cofton Park, Birmingham.
Following a creditable 10th at the English Nationals two weeks earlier, Abberley was looking to make an even bigger impact.
Opting for a fast start in the 3k race, Abberley was always up among the leaders.
The Burton runner not only stayed with the pacesetters, but managed to improve on his position as the race progressed.
As they approached the final bend, the first five had spread well out.
Abberley, in fifth place, tried desperately to catch the runner ahead.
In a sprint finish the duo crossed the line together, but Abberley was officially placed fifth.
The Burton runner now looks forward to this weekend’s Schools Cross Country Championships at Donnington Park.
Abberley was one of three Burton AC runners to represent their county in front of the television cameras.
Alex Benfield was sporting the Staffordshire colours for the under-20s race, while veteran Gordy Smith pulled on the Derbyshire vest for a third consecutive year.
Benfield, on the back of an excellent season, was looking to improve on his best position of 60th in the Inter Counties Championships.
In a field full of young internationals, Benfield took a measured approach to the 8k course.
The early pace was frantic, but Benfield pushed hard in a bid to keep in touch with the leaders.
On the third lap legs began to tire – and Benfield was able to make up several places for an excellent 25th place.
Remarkably, the Burton AC runner out-sprinted the 2013 National Cross Country champion and 2012 Inter Counties winner Adam Howard, of Manchester, to claim a notable scalp.
Smith missed out by the narrowest of margins on improving on his best position of 247th, achieved in 2012.
Smith completed the 11k course in 41mins, 58secs for 248th overall.
He said: “I found the pace of the senior men’s race unbelievable quick – especially on such a challenging course.”
Other Burton AC athletes in action over the weekend included Cory Parker, who just failed to record a personal best time at the Weston Five.
Parker finished third overall. His father, Ian, was also competing in the same race, and smashed his pervious best in the five-mile event after clocking a creditable 34:30.