Kettering Town Harriers enjoyed a superb Anglian Trophy with 12 of the squad securing qualification to the most prestigious cross country race of the season – the English Schools Championship, which are being held at Temple Newsam Park in Leeds for the second successive year.
The competition against some strong teams comprising of the best athletes from Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk is used as the final selection opportunity for the Northants Schools team for Junior (U15), Intermediate (U17), and Senior (U19) age groups, and was held at a bitterly cold Abington Park over a challenging and tricky course with frozen patches in places.
With the top seven Northants finishers guaranteed qualification and eighth place open to consideration from any appeals there was a great incentive to battle for an automatic place.
The Harriers squad of 22, who qualified from County Schools two weeks earlier, acquitted themselves well with U19 Emily Williams, who secured a fine silver medal, and U15 Alice Bates, who continued her terrific start to the year with a bronze, the two standout performances of the day.
Williams enjoyed a much better performance than the Midland Counties a week earlier with a very strong performance which saw her complete the 4.2km course in 15:30 to secure that silver.
Williams was in a battle with Cambridgeshire’s Shannon Flockhart, who proved just too strong to take the title in 14:59.
Also running in the senior girls race were Jen Robinson and Olivia Knibb who finished 48th and 57th respectively.
Bates has been in terrific form in 2019 and enjoyed a superb race to secure her bronze, her highest ever placing in this competition.
She enjoyed a fine battle with Suffolk’s Ruby Vinton, the eventual winner, and Norfolk’s Hattie Reynolds over the 3.4km course and finished strongly in 13:00 dead.
Soon to be club colleague Alice Bennett, a bottom year in the age group, put in a battling performance to finish in a fine 15th place (fourth Northants) in 14:29 while Josie Crick, a late reserve for Northants, ran well for 63rd.
In the senior boys race, triathlete Flynn Batkin showed he has been working hard to maintain fitness with a terrific run to finish fourth over the 6.7km course in 21:05 to top score for Northants.
Josh Cannell ran well for 39th in 23:46 and, as eighth Northants scorer, will have to wait to see if he has made the team.
There were three Harriers securing English Schools qualification in the Inter Boys U17 race over a tough 5.9km course.
Dylan Bowley put in a great performance to finish 10th (second Northants) in 20:39 with bottom year Idayi Jumbe taking a respectable 23rd, (fourth Northants scorer) in 21:12.
And, in what was perhaps one of the grittiest performances of the day, Josh Geddes put in a magnificent effort over the final kilometre to move from 10th in the Northants race to sixth while taking 40th place overall in 21:48.
Callum Cox was 45th (21:59) and eighth Northants finisher and will have to wait and see.
Josh Clutton didn’t enjoy his best race of the season and struggled to get going to finish in 62nd in 22:36.
There were also three Harriers securing their first English Schools selection in the Junior Boys.
And it was a remarkable finish for them as Luke Cole (22nd), Ben Brooker (23rd) and Rio Carr (24th) all recording an identical time of 15:33.
Unfortunately two bottom year Harriers did not secure qualification places but Lucas Rogers and George Separovic put in respectable performances for 62nd and 63rd place respectively.
The final Harrier to secure automatic qualification for English Schools was bottom year U17 Freya Batkin who enjoyed a fine run over the 3.8km course to finish in a very respectable 36th place in 16:21, securing the sixth automatic Northants qualification place.
The much-improved Dylan White produced perhaps his best cross country performance in the Minor Boys (U13) race with a brilliant run over the 2.9km course to finish in eighth place overall.
There was just one Harrier in the Minor Girls (U13) race with bottom year Maggie Gancheva running finishing in a very respectable 27th place.