THE Guardian asked Andy Carter, performance coach at Vale Royal Athletics Club, what gave his athletes the edge during last weekend's Cheshire Cross Country Championships.

They collected 10 gold medals, four of them as a reward for victory in a team category, at Birchwood Forest Park in Warrington.

Here is what he said:

VALE Royal’s success at the Cheshire Cross Country Championships owed much to how we prepared.

We even trained on New Year’s Day because Tuesday is when our weekly session takes place and we didn’t want the athletes to miss out.

The turnout was great too.

During the winter we do timed repetitions – three or four-minute runs – and everybody completes them together as a group.

It’s helped our developing athletes to improve because they’ve been pulled along by the faster ones.

A lot of those elite runners did as well as we expected at the weekend when we demonstrated the strength in depth at our club.

READ > How every Vale Royal runner did at the Cheshire Cross Country Championships

Look at the under 15s, for example.

We had three boys in the top six and six girls made up the top 10 in their race.

It was a similar situation with the under 13s.

Meanwhile we had half-a-dozen or so absences through injury and illness that perhaps cost us a chance to pick up more team medals.

Our under 20s, both men and women, suffered as a result as did our under 17s girls.

More than 120 members entered, and close to 100 of those ran on the day.

It’s an event that brings everybody together; it’s local, so nobody travels far, and the parents of some of the younger runners take part as well which means they stick around for the whole day.

PICTURES > Our gallery from the Cheshire Cross Country Championships

It’s rare that all sections of the club are together in the same place, and that creates a lovely atmosphere too.

There is more vocal support and encouragement, which is great.

The under 11s, who are new to the event, really benefit from that.

It’s fantastic for them to watch the older runners in action, and I hope it’s a showcase for their families of what is to come if their child wants to move through the ranks.

They can see how well the club is doing, and it persuades them to stay.