Neil Featherby: The future looks bright for Norfolk Cross Country team

Neil's EDP article 12/01/18

After my column back in November about the new regime of Chris Merrylees and Dominic Blake now heading up the Norfolk County Cross Country Team, last Sunday saw what was most certainly an eagerly awaited Norfolk County X/C Championships at Thetford.

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Ashley Harrell won the Senior Men's race. Picture: Tony Payne
Despite the absence due to injury and illness to half a dozen leading athletes, the standard was certainly very high along with an excellent turnout in all the races. I also think it is fair to say that right from the under 11s up to the seniors saw some excellent racing with some close finishes and plenty of toing and froing between the positions during the races.

However, and in the main senior races, it has to be said that the standard was the best it has been for a number of years with Ash Harold taking the honours in the men’s race and Ruth Senior showing her strength as she passed the long time leader Mabel Beckett in the ladies event.

Both Dom and Chris had plenty to say afterwards with Dom also making the cut himself saying: “It was awesome and whilst I knew I was giving my all, at the same time I also loved watching the race unfold in front of me.”

They are both now looking forward to meeting up with the 30 athletes who have been selected for the next squad day on February 10 prior to the Inter County Championships at Loughborough on March 10 where nine men and eight ladies will be selected to wear the Norfolk vest.

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Ruth Senior leads the Senior Women's race home. Picture: Tony Payne
Whilst the Norfolk teams will more than likely be based upon the finishing positions in the Norfolk County X/C, if for whatever reason there are any call offs, those making up the reserve positions are all of a high calibre and will easily fill any vacant slots.

What is so very obvious is that Chris and Dom have certainly fired the enthusiasm up once again to be part of Norfolk’s proud cross country tradition for which I think it only right to give the final word to Chris Merryless.

“This year’s county cross country championships really were a proper County Championships which has clearly been reflected by the fact that 12 different clubs from Norfolk have athletes in our men’s and women’s senior squads,” said Chris. “It also shows that all the clubs this year were keen to be seen and have representation at all levels for which the future really is looking good.”

A special mention has to go to City of Norwich AC’s Dani Nimmock who whilst she was missing from the Norfolk County Championships, she was however competing in the Telford 10k road race which undoubtedly attracts athletes of a very high standard.

Danni not only finished in an amazing third place, she also finished in an equally, if not more so, amazing time of 33:04 seconds. I don’t think that too many people would mind me saying that many a male athlete in Norfolk would love to able to boast such a PB. As Chris Merrylees said…the future of Norfolk distance running, really is looking good.