Berkshire’s best race in Cookham
Cross Country: County championships staged at fruit farm
The county’s best runners converged on the Copas Fruit Fields in Cookham shortly before Christmas to take part in the Berkshire Cross Country Championships.
More than 200 runners from many of the county’s best clubs took up the challenge to see if they could qualify for the Inter County Championships in Loughborough on March 12.
In surprisingly mild conditions, the athletes raced through ploughed fields and cherry orchards at the event which was well managed by Cookham Running Club with support from landowner James Copas. The first eight finishers in each of the age group races automatically qualified to represent Berkshire in Loughborough.
Sam Hart of Newbury AC was the first to emerge from the pack in the senior men’s race, completing the 10k course more than a minute quicker than his nearest rival with Newbury also taking the team title. Luke Jolly, 39, won the M35 title for Reading AC, but it was Newbury who claimed the veteran team title.
Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow (WSEH AC) excelled across several age
groups, with Sam Hodgson convincingly winning the u20s race ahead of clubmate William Goddard. The pair helped WSEH take the team title ahead of Bracknell AC in second.
In the senior women’s race Loughborough University student Kirsty Walker won for Reading AC while Jasmine Young of WSEH AC pulled away from clubmate Katie Clutterbuck to take the u20s women’s title. WSEH also won the team title.
The junior races were more keenly contested with English Schools steeplechase champion, Luke Birdseye beating Cookhambased Frank McGrath to ensure a WSEH one-two in the u17s boys’ race. Joshua Mingoia took fourth to see the club win another team event.
WSEH’s Freya Ruffles, coached by Shireen Higgins – edged out Jemima Ridley to win the u17s women’s race and WSEH’s Finn McKay won the u13s boys’ race in his first competitive cross country race for the club. He finished 19 seconds ahead of Josh Norton of Newbury with WSEH’s James Farley in third. Zoe Allen won the u13s girls race for WSEH, with Quinn
Bookless of Cookham Running Club claimed an impressive fourth place to qualify for the county squad. She also led Cookham to a fourth placed finish in the team event.
Benjamin Dewar of WSEH AC pulled clear of Basingstoke’s Nicholas Thomas to win the u15s boys race, while Carys Westcott of Reading AC narrowly beat WSEH AC’s Ella Davey in the u15s girls race, with Jacqueline Heller of Cookham in third place. Bracknell AC, with three finishers in the top eight, took the team title on countback from second placed Cookham, who had three in the top nine, with both clubs scoring 19 points.
Race director Peta Bee, founder of Cookham RC, thanked the many coaches, parents and officials for their work behind the scenes to make the event a success.
She said: “We are extremely grateful to James Copas, the landowner, for his generosity in providing us with such a stunning venue for these championships.
“We had excellent feedback on the day and many competitors commented that the course was tough and the location stunning.”