A CLUTCH of Burton Athletics Club juniors have qualified for the prestigious English Schools’ Cross-Country Championships.
Regional Schools’ Cross-Country competitions took place at the weekend with places up for grabs in the Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire teams who will go on to compete at Catton Park, Walton upon Trent next month.
The Monaghan brothers William and Alex, who both attend John Taylor School, were paired against each other in the intermediate boys’ race at the Staffordshire Championships in Stoke-On-Trent.
William produced a strong running performance to finish second and book his place in the Staffordshire team.
Alex, who was competing against older competitors, narrowly missed out on qualification after finishing a creditable 10th place.
In the year seven race at Stoke promising Burton AC youngsters Fergus McAuliffe and Callum Abberley were also in action.
The De Ferrers pupils put in fantastic performances for the East Staffordshire team with Abberley claiming a convincing win while McAuliffe crossed the line in fourth.
Neither will contest the English Schools’ Championships as the year seven category does not run at the finals. But both will fancy their chances next year when they move up to junior boys.
De Ferrers pupil Kynan Sherriff competed in the junior boys section and finished second East Staffordshire runner and 17th overall.
With another year competing in the same section Sherriff will expect to have an excellent chance in 2014.
Former William Allitt pupil Alex Benfield, now at Loughborough College, was in action at Ratcliffe College for the Leicestershire Championships – and was keen not to lose his spikes after his experience at the Midlands Championships.
With his spikes tightly fastened Benfield needed a top three place to guarantee selection for the Leicestershire team.
Benfield was in the lower age group for his seniors race and was up against tough competition including Johnny Monk, who has dominated the Leicestershire Schools competition with four league wins from four.
Harry Thompson, who narrowly missed out on third place at the Midlands Championships, was also racing in the same section.
Following a frantic start to the two and a half lap race Benfield was down in around 10th place. When they returned from the first loop Benfield had positioned himself just behind Monk with Thompson a further 10 metres behind and struggling to match their pace.
As the front runners approached the closing stages of the second lap Benfield launched a break and pushed on hard as Monk fell back.
Thompson had managed to stay in contact and came past Monk to become Benfield’s main challenger. As legs began to tire Thompson looked to push the Burton AC runner all the way,
But the finish line came just at the right time for Benfield who was able to cruise over the line to win by 20 metres from Thompson with Monk a further 150 metres behind.
Thomas Benfield (William Allitt), Alec Stackhouse (Granville School) and Mollie O’Hanlon (William Allitt) all represented South Derbyshire in the Derbyshire Championships at Catton Park.
The event was also used as a trial run for next month’s English Schools’ Championships.
The first eight finishers were guaranteed qualification and Stackhouse – competing in the lower age group of the junior boys category – was determined to make it to the finals on his first attempt.
Hugo Milner, of Derby AC, was a convincing overall winner, but Stackhouse excelled to finish fourth and book his spot on the Derbyshire team.
Mollie O’hanlon was in the lower age group competing in the junior girls’ race. O’hanlon also looked on course for an automatic place in the team but crossed the line alongside a fast-finishing runner and was placed a contentious ninth and now faces an anxious wait as first standby.
Thomas Benfield took part in the year seven race and was second South Derbyshire finisher and 34th overall.