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Future Voices: Next running star could be on show at this weekend’s cross country championships

PUBLISHED: 11:00 17 March 2017

Action from the Junior Girls race in the Norfolk Schools Cross Country Championship at the Norfolk Showground. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Action from the Junior Girls race in the Norfolk Schools Cross Country Championship at the Norfolk Showground. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

The next Mo Farah or Paula Radcliffe could be on show this Saturday when the Norfolk Showground hosts the English Schools Cross Country Championships.

With more than 2000 athletes attending from every corner of the country the event has been months in planning and is heavily reliant upon a willing band of volunteers.

The Championships will see youngsters put through a serious test - even the youngest age category (junior girls) will face a gruelling 3250m course.

Despite Norfolk being perceived by many as flat, local coordinator Brendon Byrne assured me that the showground would be no easier than previous venues.

He said: “The courses are fairly flat compared to some venues used in the past, however, to counteract that, the distances for the races have been taken to the maximum that is allowed.”

Course preparation is just one task on a long list for the organisers.

“The event involves cooperation between the English schools, the Norfolk schools, Active Norfolk and the Norfolk Showground management,” he said.

“Car and coach parks have to be sorted out. First aid also has to be booked, refreshments have to be provided, road signs produced and publicity for the event sorted.

“I have even had to deal with a query from a parent who wanted to fly in by helicopter to the event.”

The event is the showpiece of the schools cross country season and is reward for those athletes who have made it through a series of area and regional qualifiers.

I asked Brendon about the chances of the Norfolk runners.

“To be selected the athletes will have to have performed well in the Norfolk Schools Championship and then in the Anglian Schools Championships”, he said. “It is likely that the most successful Norfolk runners will come from the under 17 girls team. A number of them were in the City of Norwich team that recently won a team event.”

One young runner who will be representing Norfolk schools is year eight Thorpe St Andrew Student Grace Jermy.

I spoke to Grace about how she is feeling ahead of Saturday’s race.

She said: “I think Saturday will be tough as I will be racing against older girls. I also struggle with my nerves and that will be my biggest challenge on the day.

“I began running when I was seven doing parkruns with my family, and I joined City of Norwich athletics club when I was eight. It’s my favourite type of athletics - I love the sense of achievement and getting really muddy.”

Good luck to all those taking part and a big thank you to all the volunteers for enabling Norfolk to be in the sporting spotlight on Saturday.

• To find out more about the event, please click here.

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