Cross Country National Finals
Robbie Sewell gives his account of a competitive and enjoyable, but most of all muddy, National Cross Country championships:
"After completely dominating the County Round of the Inter schools Cross Country Cup, and finishing a very close second in the East & Central England Regional Round, the Perse Intermediate Boys Team (Year 9 + 10) of Ollie Cantrill, Robbie Sewell, Ciaran Flaherty, Will Louth, Harry Schuman and George Gilligan looked strong going into the National Final held at Canon Slade School near Bolton.
No one could remember the school having reached this stage in the competition before so it was a fantastic achievement for the team to get this far, but that also meant that no one really knew what to expect.
Despite a week of heavy rain and sleet, the sun came out for race day and lifted the temperature slightly above freezing. After a 200 mile trip, every member of the team – except Will who sadly was too ill to attend – arrived in plenty of time to walk round the course and prepare for the final against over 120 of the best runners in the country.
The course seemed fairly flat when we arrived but the main obstacle was the ground, with mud up to a foot deep in places, especially on the twisty parts. Even runners with the longest length of spikes slipped on the peaty mud. Our race was last (and thus most churned up) and nerves got to some runners after seeing competitors in the previous races struggle in the mud – and with their own health.
The start isusually the most exciting part of a race and this one was no exception. Each team starts in a ‘pen’ – the runners standing one behind the other, cramped into the little space available. The race began and several runners slipped right away, including our lead runner Ollie Cantrill, who almost nose-dived at the gun. At this stage you have 120 runners sprinting full-pelt (and with elbows out) towards the first corner, some falling and then getting impaled by the spikes of their competitors – whilst in 6 inches of mud. Carnage was not an overstatement of the scene at times.
The race ended with Ollie Cantrill coming in 24th, Robbie Sewell in 40th, Harry Schuman in 79th, Ciaran Flaherty in 87th and George Gilligan in 102nd. In the end the Perse school came 16th out of all the schools; an excellent team result for our first appearnace, and especially given that running is one of the only sports available to all 5,000 schools – comprehensive, grammar or independent – in the UK. We all felt the event was worth the long trip up to Bolton and we’re delighted that we’ve put the Perse on the national cross country map. We hope to return in future years."