VALE Royal Athletics Club runners won more medals – individual and collective – than anticipated at Saturday’s Northern Athletics Cross Country Championship.

The Knights Grange-based club returned home from Knowsley Safari Park, host of the annual event for the first time, with five gongs in total, two of them gold in colour.

“We didn’t expect it,” said coach Shaun McGrath.

“It’s never easy to predict these things, but to win in the age categories that we did is a really fantastic achievement.”

Amelia Pettit, aged 17, was runner-up in a junior women’s race won by Great Britain international Georgia Taylor-Brown, a girl almost two years older.

With clubmate Tessa McCormick close behind in fourth, plus a top 20 finish for Kate Moulds, Vale Royal topped the team standings ahead of Liverpool Harriers.

McGrath said: “It was a marvellous result for Amelia, and a deserved reward for her hard work.

“She’s one of those runners that will be up and out running at six o’clock in the morning no matter what the weather.”

The club’s under 17s boys delivered team gold too, boosted by Elliot Bowker crossing the line in third position.

Matthew Sheen was next to finish, with Sam Whitehead and Patrick Stradling completing a quartet that pipped Preston to first place.

“I’m pleased for Elliot because the course conditions with snow and heavy mud didn’t really suit his style,” added McGrath.

“It shows what a class athlete he is that he can still be a contender at the front of the field.”

A fifth medal followed for Vale Royal’s under 17s girls, led by Jessica Parsons who finished 11th.
Emma Pyatt, Kate Gerrard and Jade Evans placed inside the top 40, the latter’s result relegating Stockport to third in the team table by a single point.

Vale Royal’s junior men were fifth helped by Mike Vennard finishing ninth, while Jon Owen was among the first 20 to complete the course in the under 15s boys’ category.

For the seniors, Jodie Spencer recorded a fine top 50 result with clubmate Kate Spilsbury close behind in 51st place.

Stuart Doyle, well-equipped to tackle the conditions because of his height, avenged a defeat in the Cheshire County AA Cross Country Championships to beat Chris Perry.

Doyle was first finisher in the over 40s men’s class too.

There was age category success for Pauline Davies in the over 60s women’s group, edging teammate Carole Williams.

Northern Athletics Cross Country Championships
Knowsley Safari Park, Saturday – Senior men (selected Vale Royal AC runners only):
37. Stuart Doyle 44:39; 54. Chris Perry 45:42; 210. John Thompson 53:22; 252. Craig Sephton 54:48; 260. Iain Stanton 55:02; 287. Tom Annable 56:14; 395. Tony Archer 1:00.00; 470. Ian Newsham 1:04.17; 508. Bob Corinaldi 1:06.45; 535. Simon Bridge 1:10.02; 553. Richard Pettitt 1:12.59; 566. Paul Hudson 1:16.57. Teams: 15. Vale Royal AC A 936pts; 54. Vale Royal AC B 2748.

Senior women: 48. Jodie Spencer 36:33; 51. Kate Spilsbury 36:52; 171. Debbie Moreton 48:45; 200. Pauline Davies 54:36; 201. Sula Stanley 54:42; 204. Carole Williams 56:15; 207. Diane Newsham 58:21. Teams: 16. Vale Royal AC 470pts.

Junior men: 9. Mike Vennard 28:55; 38. Zack Bamber 31:39; 41. Ryan Moore 31:51; 46. Andy Miles 32:01; 67. Deklin Blundell 34:41; 78. Matthew Jakeman 42:41. Teams: 5. Vale Royal AC 134pts.

Junior women: 2. Amelia Pettitt 23:31; 4. Tessa McCormick 24:12; 16. Kate Moulds 26:07. Teams: 1. Vale Royal AC 22pts.

Under 17s boys: 3. Elliot Bowker 20:12; 4. Matthew Sheen 20:23; 16. Sam Whitehead 21:09; 46. Patrick Stradling 22:17; 66. Ben McIntosh 23:08; 80. Tim Morris 24:12; 94. Nathan Tipping 24:51. Teams: 1. Vale Royal AC 69pts.

Under 17s girls: 11. Jessica Parsons 22:24; 27. Emma-Louise Pyatt 23:34; 30. Kate Gerrard 23:39; 35. Jade Evans 24:02; 52. Lucy Scott 24:59; 55. Clara Pettitt 25:23; 79. Rebecca  Hirst 27:24. Teams: 2. Vale Royal AC 103pts.

Under 15s boys: 18. Jon Owen 15:34; 112. Matt Rowlinson 18:12.

Under 15s girls: 31. Megan Hough 18:33; 73. Chloe Broad 20:27; 79. Amy Nolan 20:41; 110. Ella Weston 22:24; 121. Becky Smith 24:52. Teams: 14. Vale Royal AC 293pts.

Under 13s boys: 42. John Humphries 12:51; 51. Robert Weir 13:05; 54. Ben Lee 13:07; 86. Alex Doyle 13:55; 100. Sam Coleman 14:18; 113. Charlie Breeze 15:05; 117. Sam Haughton 15:49. Teams: 6. Vale Royal AC 233pts.

Under 13s girls: 23. Georgina Denham 13:36; 55. Caitlin Dimmick 14:43; 61. Esme Bridge 14:48; 87. Jasmine Thompson 15:31. Teams: 8. Vale Royal AC 226pts.