THE youngest runners at Vale Royal Athletics Club worked together to claim a first title.

Their under 11s girls have finished top of the team standings in their age-group category following four rounds of the North Staffordshire Cross Country League.

For a few, it was a first experience of competition.

“It’s a challenge they loved taking on,” said coach Sarah Gibbs.

“And it’s that bit more special when it’s a reward for a team effort.

“They don’t race to win at this stage because we want them to enjoy themselves and get as much as they can from the experience of competing against other clubs.

“However it’s amazing to see what it means to them when they do have success.”

Eabha Lee also took the runner-up prize for individuals.

She crossed the line third in the final fixture of the 2018 campaign at Rodbaston Campus in Penkridge, followed by Elise Fawkes in fourth.

Zoe Broughton was third counter for Vale Royal, finishing 12th, and they trailed rivals from West Cheshire on the day.

However the positions were reversed in the overall standings.

Fawkes was fourth in the solo rankings, while Erin Carney classified ninth despite not contesting the final round.

Vale Royal’s under 11s boys were fourth in the team table and Alfie Murray was their highest-ranked individual in 10th place.

“There is a lovely mood among the group and they encourage each other,” said Gibbs, who is assisted by Lisa Meadows and Phil Maundrill.

"The conditions were terrible for the final race; it was bitterly cold - I was wearing ski gloves! - and yet they still had smiles on their faces.

"I think that's the most important part of their development right now; they're making friends and having fun doing athletics no matter what their ability."

A total of 27 boys and girls from Vale Royals' under 11s section have entered the Cheshire Cross Country Championships, which take place in Warrington on Saturday.