SHE may not have won a medal, but Katie Brough rates her run at Saturday’s national cross country championships as her best yet, writes Andrew Simpson.

The Vale Royal Athletics Club star finished fourth in the senior women’s race; her highest placing at the event.

And after only squeezing inside the top 10 at the regional championships last month, the 31-year-old told the Guardian she had surpassed her own expectation.

“The Northerns didn’t go well so I was apprehensive,” she said.

“My confidence was hit, so this was a race I hadn’t been looking forward to.

“Everything seemed to come together for me though – the course was flat and hadn’t been churned up despite the wet weather, and I kept pace with the leading pack.”

In a high class field, Brough held off the challenge of Jess Andrews (Aldershot Farnham & District) – an athlete that was quicker than her in Great Britain colours at the Great Edinburgh Cross Country in January – to claim fourth.

She believes preparation paid off.

“I got a road race under my belt and have put in some hard miles to be ready,” she added.

“That definitely helped, as did the condition of the course. As a track specialist, it suited me not to have to plough through the mud. When that happens, it’s important to make the most of it.”

Together with Kate Titlow, Kate Spilsbury and Jodie Spencer, she helped Vale Royal to sixth in the team standings – the Knights Grange-based club’s best result in the age category at the national cross country championships.

Meanwhile the junior women repeated their medal-winning exploits at last year’s edition when claiming bronze, this time in more dramatic circumstances.

Third counter Emma Pyatt made up two places in a dash to the finish, securing points that propelled Vale Royal above closest rivals Windsor in the standings.

Amelia Pettitt had scored a personal best 13th place finish, with Kate Moulds doing the same en route to 31st position.

“If ever we needed proof that every place counts then that was it,” said club spokesman Shaun McGrath.

“Emma’s move at the end was the difference between winning a medal and not.”

Of the rest, Sam Whitehead placed inside the top 20 in the under 17s boys’ race – easily his best performance at the championships – while Caitlin Dimmick was impressive when finishing just outside the first 30 runners in the under 13s girls’ category.

Meanwhile Will Parsons was among the first 50 over the line in the under 15s boys’ class.

The club’s runners turn their attention next to the CAU UK Inter-Counties Championships at Cofton Park, in Birmingham, on Saturday week.