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Neil Featherby: Congratulations to Chris Merrylees and Dominic Blake for restoring some pride to the Norfolk cross county scene

Chris Merrylees did a fine job alongside Dominic Blake preparing the Norfolk team for the Inter County Cross Championship. Picture: Neil Featherby

Chris Merrylees did a fine job alongside Dominic Blake preparing the Norfolk team for the Inter County Cross Championship. Picture: Neil Featherby

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Back in November, a couple of my columns were dedicated to Chris Merrylees and Dominic Blake, who made the decision to take on the role of becoming joint team managers for the senior men’s and women’s Norfolk County Cross Country teams.

Dominic Blake hopes Norfolk now have a blueprint for the future with its cross country teams. Picture: Neil FeatherbyDominic Blake hopes Norfolk now have a blueprint for the future with its cross country teams. Picture: Neil Featherby

For a number of years our County Championships at senior level had waned somewhat, which was a great shame with Norfolk having had a proud tradition of being able to not only put some strong county teams, but even producing national champions from junior through to senior level.

Like all new brooms they came in with lots of fresh ideas and, with the help of many others, they put these into practice which saw the County Championships at Thetford, back in January, being the best attended for years. This also culminated with Norfolk being able to field full men’s and women’s teams at senior level for the Inter Counties Cross Country Championships at Loughborough last weekend.

Before I go any further, I have to also say a huge well done to all athletes, team managers, officials and coaches right from the very youngest to the most senior. It has been a fantastic team effort with regards to all the Norfolk X/C teams and one which I think they should all be applauded for.

However, going back to Chris and Dom, they really had put a lot of time and effort into a project which, I think it is fair to say, some thought they may struggle with.

Nevertheless, not only did they pull it off, fielding two full senior teams, but the men’s team finished in a very creditable 25th place whilst the ladies’ team really did produce the goods finishing in 10th.

To add some icing on the cake, a very special mention has to go to Mabel Beckett, Colleen Mukuya and Jo Andrews who all made the top 50 in the ladies race and to Simon Millett for his superb 92nd placing in the men’s race.

For those who know athletics, they will also know what a top 100 finish in either the Inter Counties or National Cross Country Championships means. It really is an achievement and something to be proud of.

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Many an established international athlete over the years has failed to do so.

Both Chris and Dom can certainly now look back with lots of satisfaction and the knowledge that their efforts paid off and, most importantly,they now have a blueprint to keep the momentum going when the next cross country season starts come the autumn.

With Norfolk Athletics being proud of its recent efforts, I think it is only fair to give the last words to Dom, who was speaking on behalf of himself and Chris.

“When we took on the role of becoming joint team managers last year, things didn’t look great,” he said. “There was a fair bit of apathy towards running for Norfolk at Inter County level, but we challenged the county’s best to step up and come forward to prove that as a county we are more than capable whilst also realising that it is an honour and privilege to run for Norfolk.

“The camaraderie before the race was clear to see and any club rivalry was soon put to one side. We really do thank all those people who helped to make the Inter Counties such a great occasion and one which we are both so very proud of.

“This is just the beginning of a very long journey that is for sure, but most importantly a journey which is going to be challenging whilst being so very rewarding, particularly if last weekend is anything to go by.”

Other Norfolk finishers

Senior Men: Ben Spratling, Sam Coyne, Sam Todd, Gary Crush, George Gay, Chris Merrylees, Dan Middleton and Callum Stanforth.

Senior Ladies: Izzy Rodriguez, Charlotte Neale, Sarah Imbush, Alicia Lacey and Lorena Latisaite.

A mention also has to go to Cat Cummings, who despite feeling unwell still made the effort for the fear of letting the team down which really did sum up the camaraderie amongst all the athletes.


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