YOUNG Burton Athletics Club runner Alec Stackhouse ran the race of his life at the Saucony English National Cross Country Championships held at Herrington Park, Sunderland.
Stackhouse has enjoyed an excellent season to date in local and regional races, but the step up to national level would be a real test for the under-13 boys North Midland League runner-up.
On a challenging two-lap course Stackhouse was fighting to keep up with the fierce pace and found himself in 26th position as they looped around to begin the second lap.
With conditions taking their toll, Stackhouse was able to pick off runners one by one, and at one point had climbed to 13th place before falling back slightly to record a fantastic 18th place finish.
As Stackhouse crossed the line, his efforts took their toll with the Burton youngster suffering from hyperthermia before going into mild shock.
Stackhouse received medical support and with the help of a hot water bottle and blankets was soon back on his feet and able to celebrate his achievements at one of the greatest mass participation competitions in the United Kingdon – with more than 5,500 entrants descending on a snow-covered course to take on the finest runners from across the country.
Burton runners had an added incentive to perform well at Herrington Park with the introduction of the Martyn Naunton Memorial Trophy in memory of a popular young runner who recently passed away.
The National Championships were one of Martyn’s favourite events and the trophy was kindly donated by the Naunton family.
Stackhouse’s exploits ensured that he picked up the Martyn Naunton Memorial Trophy after finishing as the highest placed Burton runner.
Thomas Benfield, also competing in the under-13 race, was taking part in his first National Championships and got off to a flyer before falling back and finishing in 190th place overall.
Another highlight of the championships came from Alex Benfield in the under-17s mens race.
In excellent form going into the race, Benfield was keen to beat his previous best of 74th, and set himself a top 50 target.
Benfield made a good start and was always within sight of the leaders. Many of the runners in his race had already signed a lucrative UKA Athletics and sports sponsorship deals – and the Burton runner had to find every last once of energy to maintain the pace.
On one of the most challenging course he has ran on so far this season Benfield crossed the line in 41st place, less than a minute behind the overall winner to give him something to build on next year.
Mollie O’hanlon and Rhianon Woolerton endured the toughest race conditions of the day in the under-13 girls race.
The early start meant the race began in near blizzard conditions with more than 260 runners heading off into the mist.
O’hanlon completed the course in just over 14 minutes to finish in 141st place. Woolerton finished in 17 mins 26 seconds.
Under-20 men’s runner Cory Parker was up against the odds on the snow-covered course.
The treacherous conditions were at odds with Parker’s style of running and he was hugely disappointed to only just make the top 100.
The men’s race is renowned as a great spectacle with club runners getting to line up alongside some of the country’s leading senior athletes.
Kevin Stackhouse, Rob Sharratt, Eamon O’hanlon and Paul Mathie are all veterans of the National Championships and took an a field in excess of 1,000 contestants.
The race was won by Keith Gerrard, closely followed by Great Britain regular and former winner Steve Vernon.
The Burton AC runners slushed around the three-lap course with Stackhouse first home in 846th, O’hanlon was 878th, with Sharratt 950th and Mathie coming home in 1030th position.
In the Scottish Championships Helen Sharpe, daughter of Burton AC coach Trevor Sharpe, turned out for Fife AC and enjoyed a great run.
Sharpe crossed the line in 12th place in the senior women’s race.
The next major event is the televised Inter-County Championships in Birmingham in two weeks, featuring several Burton AC runners.