IT WAS a case of out with the old and in with the new at the English Schools’ Cross Country Championships at Donington Park for Burton Athletics Club.
De Ferrers pupil Callum Abberley, racing in the Staffordshire Schools colours, made his debut in the junior boys’ race.
At the other end of the scale, Burton’s Alex Benfield was competing in his last race for Derbyshire Schools in the senior boys’ section.
Described as a breeding ground for the country’s top athletes, Mo Farah credits the English Schools’ Championships for getting him hooked on racing after he finished ninth as a 13-year-old.
And Abberley and Benfield were up against some of the nation’s most talented runners as they looked to end the season on a high.
Abberley also had age against him, with the majority of runners from the school year above in a bumper field of 333 runners.
However, a fast finish gave Abberley a superb 31st place finish.
With another year in the same age group category the future looks bright for the Burton AC youngster.
Having waited for five hours ahead of the last race of the day, Benfield was in no mood to hang around at the start.
Benfield pushed out hard in another field of 300-plus runners for the 6.9k race over three laps.
As in previous national outings, the top youth athletes from the Great Britain team relentlessly pushed the pace from start to finish.
Benfield, who was suffering from a sore throat, was uncomfortable for much of the race, but worked hard throughout his last outing at schools level.
In 45th place as they began the last lap, Benfield found his second wind and cut through the field to record a best ever finish of 32nd.
That result meant the Burton AC runner secured the highest placing of any athlete from the Midlands.
Fellow Burton AC athletes Mollie O’Hanlon, of William Allitt School, and Pingle School pupil Alec Stackhouse also made the grade, with both representing Derbyshire Schools.
The championships failed to go to plan for Stackhouse, who suffered a problem halfway through the race and had to withdraw.
O’Hanlon enjoyed the experience of qualifying but struggled with the conditions and finished in 338th.