North Norfolk Harriers shine at County Cross Country Championships

Harriers' U15 girls and boys (blue and yellow halves) on the start line at the County Cross-Country

Harriers' U15 girls and boys (blue and yellow halves) on the start line at the County Cross-Country Championships in Thetford. Picture: Paul O'Malley - Credit: Archant

North Norfolk Harriers AC returned triumphant from the County Cross-Country Championships boasting five individual gold medals, two silvers and a host of team prizes.

For the second year, the championships were staged at the Charles Burrell Centre in Thetford, with races for juniors and seniors set out over beautiful heathland.

The U11s were first away around a 2km course and it was the Harriers' Matthew Benson who claimed his first victory in regional competition, turning on the after-burners with 150m to go and reeling in five athletes to snatch gold — a hugely impressive win for the Coltishall junior.

The Harriers also took team silver with great runs from Ruben Xuereb and Joseph Keeble making up the trio.

The U13s continued the winning start for the Harriers with Innes O'Malley and Hattie Reynolds both taking clear victories around their 3km course. The U13 boys took team gold too, with Henry Jonas and Brad Keay finishing second and fourth and also team bronze courtesy of Toby Stewart, Nathan Hutchings and Angus White. The U13 girls took team bronze with Leah Banning and Abbi McCallum finishing behind Hattie.

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Over 4.2km, the under 15 girls saw race favourite Abi Durand romp to victory followed home by a brilliant silver for the ever-improving Eliska Watling.

There was a superb team silver for the U15 boys as Sam Cooper, Billy Life and Joshua Keeble battled brilliantly to get on the podium. The Harriers' most senior competitor, Finlay Swanson, also bagged gold in the 8.2km U20's race — a fantastic achievement for the 18-year-old Sheringham lad.

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'We're thrilled for Finlay,' said Harriers' chairman, Paul O'Malley. 'He's really put in the hard miles lately and he looked in fantastic form. His win was the icing on the cake, with individual and team performances providing further evidence of the club's growing reputation on the county scene and beyond.'

With their individual victories, Innes, Hattie and Abi each earned a place at the Virgin Money London Mini-Marathon in April, representing the East Region. Many of the Harriers will also now receive automatic selection to represent Norfolk at the national Inter-County Cross-Country Championships in Loughborough in March.

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