Nicole steps up to lead County home

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Nicole Roberts produced a superb performance when making an excellent transition from Junior to Senior level to finish 27th at the McCain’s UK Inter Counties Cross Country Championships.

The meeting at Birmingham’s Cofton Park saw the Kettering youngster, who finished 14th in last year’s Junior race, move through after a steady start which saw her trail fellow County runner Sian Edwards in the early stages of the 8km race.

She eventually went on to complete the distance in 29.29 while Edwards, who came 85th 12 months ago, also performed well to finish 44th.

Their efforts helped Northamptonshire to secure a good team position when they repeated their 17th place of last year in the competition which saw Hampshire successfully defend their title ahead of Scotland East.

Also running well for Northants were Hannah Eveleigh (119th) and Jo Pulsford (126th).

At the front of the field Leicestershire’s in-form Gemma Steele, the reigning national champion, eased away from Hampshire’s Steph Twell in the closing stages to take the title.

In the corresponding Men’s race Wellingborough’s Stuart Nelson produced a solid effort to finish 129th.

Lancashire’s Keith Gerrard ran a controlled race to make it a winter double after already being crowned national champion.

He finished ahead of Ricky Stevenson (North East) who overtook Surrey’s Phil Wicks in the finishing straight to clinch the runner-up spot.

One of the most improved County runners was Jacob Allen who, after finishing 155th last year, came home 37th in the Under-17 Men’s event.

He covered the 6km course in 19.59 in the race which saw Berkshire occupy the top two positions when Jonathan Davies won the race in 18.29 from Scott Halsted (18.45).

In the opposite Women’s race, Sarah Bennett (70th), Kayli Walford (79th) and Bethan Goddard (101st) all turned in creditable performances to help the County improve 15 positions on last year to finish 22nd in the team contest which saw Surrey turn last year’s silver into gold with victory over Sussex.

Jessica Judd of Essex successfully defended her title when she finished almost 100m ahead of Kent’s Alex Clay.

Rory Grant had a solid race to place 52nd in the Junior Men’s race and with support from Luke Robinson (102nd), Conor Hills (104th) and Jake Watson (108th) helped the County to finish 20th in the team competition which was won by Yorkshire from Kent.

At the front of the field Berkshire’s Zac Seddon pulled away strongly from Surrey’s Ian Bailey in the closing stages to take the title with 70m to spare.

In the Junior Women’s event Melanie Wood ran well to finish 46th in the race which saw Surrey’s Emelia Gorecka chalk up her sixth successive Inter- Counties title with a convincing win over Cornwall’s Annabel Gummow.

Josh Cara in 70th was the top finisher for Northants in the Under-15 Boys event while leading the County’s Under-13 Girls team was Ruby Goodall who finished 118th.

Helena Keenan of Corby AC helped Leicestershire to finish sixth in the 4km Under-15 Girls race thanks to her effort of 17.08 which gave her 64th place.