Winchester Running Club celebrated their debut appearance at the Hampshire Cross Country Championships by winning eight titles on a memorable and historic day for the club at Fairthorne Manor.

The new red, white and black vests were on display for the first time since the club was formed last year, with WRC runners winning the Hampshire women’s senior team championships after also triumphing in the under-17 men's and under-15 boys' events.

Hampshire Chronicle: The victorious Under-17 boys. From left, Will Atkins, Ieuan Thomas, James Lewis, Stan Parkinson,

Helen Hall (senior and over-35 women), Tamsin Anderson (over-45 women's), Will Atkins (under-17 boys') and Ethan Skipwith (under-15 boys') all took individual titles on a brutally muddy course following the deluge of rain in the days leading up to the race.

Storm Henk swept through the south on Thursday, disrupting plenty of final training sessions, and leaving the course saturated despite bright sunshine by the time races started on Saturday morning.

The WRC athletes, however, have been prepared for what purists would regard as perfect cross country conditions with weekly hill sessions at Badger Farm Meadows overseen by coaches Nick Anderson and Andy Parkinson.

Hampshire Chronicle: Winchester Running Club under-15 teammates Grace Baker and  Kali Ruffell-Moreira

That preparation soon showed and their four entrants in the under-15 boys' race - Skipwith, Seth Noott, Casper Wilson and Ivor Martin - quickly took up the first four positions. They were then also joined by Portsmouth’s Oscar Reynolds, with Skipwith moving to the front as the race entered its final kilometre before gradually applying the pressure to build an unassailable lead. He was followed to the finish line by Noott in second and then Wilson for a WRC 1-2-3 ahead of Martin’s fast finish in fifth to secure an emphatic team gold.

Grace Baker and Kali Ruffell-Moreira, who is also an outstanding triathlete, then produced excellent performances in the girls’ under-15 race, respectively finishing 10th and 16th in another field of more than 40 athletes.

Poppy Taylor, a Hampshire champion on the track at 800m, had earlier made an impressive start up alongside the race leaders before being forced out following recent illness.

WRC were also exceptionally well represented in the under-17 men's, where Will Atkins, who was the defending champion, broke clear in the last kilometre with Southampton’s Jon Pepin.

Hampshire Chronicle: The gold medal-winning Under-15 boys. From Left, Seth Noott, Ethan Skipwith, Casper Wilson, Ivor

The race came down to the final straight but Atkins, a national medallist also on the track last summer, produced a rapid finish to secure another county title. He was backed up by Ruben Price in sixth, Sam Wilkinson in seventh and Ieuan Thomas in ninth to make it four more WRC runners in the top 10. WRC’s strength in depth was also evident through the field, with Stan Parkinson coming 16th and James Lewis, a former national medallist and multiple county champion in the younger age groups, finishing 26th in his first cross country race since March.

There were then WRC vests near the front of a women’s race that was dominated by Helen Hall, the defending champion and also the winner of the race back in 2020. Hall was inevitably also the first over-35 to continue an outstanding recent run of form that included a 33min 29sec personal best over 10km shortly before Christmas that places her second in the country in that age group.

Rose Chesterfield, who was back from university in Birmingham where she became a national champion earlier this season in the cross country relays, had won the under-20 Hampshire title last year and secured a second WRC place on the women’s senior podium in a superb third.
With Alex Lane and Tamsin Anderson following them home respectively in 12th and 13th, the WRC senior women’s team were confirmed as the best cross country team in the county on their inaugural appearance in the event.

Hampshire Chronicle: Triple champion Helen Hall, photo: Paul Hammond

Anderson was also the first over-45 finisher and, with Hall, they were joined by Karla Borland (18th) and Sam Parkinson (29th and the second over-50 finisher) in collecting a silver medal in the veteran’s women’s team event. Also performing strongly were Hannah Foster (19th), Ellie Swire (24th), Kate Green (26th) and Mikaela Price (43rd).

On what was now an even more cut up course, the championships concluded with the men’s race where Adrian Fautly led home the WRC runners in 14th ahead of Joe Driscoll (18th), Magnus Gregory (34th), Richard Bidgood (37th), Peter Sansome 47th), Colin McManus (95th) and Stephen Lowy (104th).

“It was an incredible day and an amazing first county championships for the club - I could not be more proud of every one of our runners,” said coach Nick Anderson.