Emily Williams secures England Vest!

Emily Williams produced easily her best cross country race performance in her short career to win the highly prestigious English Schools National cross country championships and in the process become the first squad member from the middle distance squad in 14 years to win an English Schools cross country title.

Her momentous win, a rarity for both KTH & Northants Schools, was testament to all the hard work she has put in from the start of the new Year which has seen her steadily improving to be in peak condition for the championship races in March, and she is hugely proud to be given the opportunity to compete for England in the British Schools International in Falkirk on 19th March, competing against the top 8 Junior girls from England, Ireland, Scotland & Wales.

Emily Williams tries on her England vest!

The English Schools championships saw 11 Harriers in total competing in what is perhaps the most prestigious race in the cross country calendar for school age children. This year the championships were held in the delightful setting of Wollaton Park in Nottingham, and with the weather being kind in the preceding weeks conditions under foot were not far from ideal with mainly firm conditions.

First race off with Harriers in contention was the Intermediate Girls race with Sophie Moss & Danni McCann-Gaskell both in action for the harriers, with Sophie Moss recording her best performance at English Schools with a very respectable 221st place, and Danni in her first experience of English schools also running well for 286th.

With Dylan Bowley deciding to miss this competition and concentrate on the Inter-Counties race in a weeks’ time, there were no Harriers competing in the Junior boys race.

So the stage was set for a slightly nervous Emily Williams in the Junior Girls race with high hopes of a top 8 finish and a chance to secure an England vest which she was desperate to win, particularly as a top year Junior Girl. Emily had a race plan which was to ensure she got away fast in the 3.5km race, and ensure she was in the top 5/6 throughout the race, a plan which she executed to perfection. Emily was one of the leading athletes in the 300m mass start which saw 339 athletes charging towards the sharp lefthander, and it was critical to ensure she did not get caught in traffic which could ruin any chance of a top 8 finish.

Emily worked hard to maintain a top 5 position throughout the race whilst ensuring the leaders were in sight, this was was her insurance policy for her top 8 finish, and the leading 5 athletes working together slowly opened up a 10 second gap on the chasing pack. Emily was looking comfortable in the closing stages, and coming into the final 600m she made up a short gap which had been forced with a breakaway attempt from the Merseyside athlete Ella McNiven with a superb effort on the only significant hill on the course leading up towards the magnificent Wollaton Hall. The final 250m was lovely downhill section, and Emily had her coach’s instructions ringing in her ears to “absolutely blast it in the final downhill section regardless of your position” and in the final 200m she duly executed, using her strength and 800m speed to power her was through the field and take her first major championship title in style and take the win by 30m from the Northern area champions and hot pre-race favourite Cumbria’s Olivia Mason.

Emily was perhaps a little shocked that she had managed to sweep aside the competition in the final 200m and she held her arms aloft crossing the line to record a famous victory in a race which has seen many full GB International athletes win in previous years (Charlotte Purdue, Kate Avery, Emilia Gorecka, Jessica Judd, Bobby Clay, Amy Griffiths, Sabrina Sinha) including perhaps Britain’s best ever long distance female athlete Paula Radcliffe in 1992.

It was an emotional experience for all her club squad members, and for parents Rosie & Rodney at the post race ceremonies, and following her first ever media interview for athletics Weekly Emily was presented with her Gold medal by current GB international athlete Kate Avery a two times European cross country championships silver medallist, and then into the International tent to collect her first full England kit!

Coach Shane Smith was absolutely delighted with her performance “Going into the race we knew she was good enough to finish top 8 but at this level it’s’ the minutest of margins which can make the difference.” he added “We had targeted a top 5 finish, but when she was in strong contention in the final 200m downhill section I knew she could win the race with her explosive pace, and we just screamed at her to go for the win, and she duly obliged” Emily has now decided to skip the NAA Inter-Counties race to ensure she is in top condition for her first International race on the 19th.

Emily Williams charging through to take her first National Championship title

There were 3 further races with Harriers interest, the first of which was the Inter Boys where Fynn Batkin in his first English Schools championships and bottom year finished in a highly respectable 123rd perhaps slightly below what he was hoping for, but a solid base to build on next year. Also running his last XC fixture of the season was 400/800 specialist Jake Trent, who finished in a respectable 226th place.

In the Senior Girls race there were x4 harriers in the race, and top scorer and third Northants finisher in 77th and her best ever placing at English schools was a slightly disappointed Claudia Nevett, who was hoping for a top 50 placing, the effects of 10 days missed training a few weeks ago perhaps taking the shine off her performance? Elana Albery continued her fine season with another strong run to finish 4th Northants scorer in 140th position, a big improvement from her ES debut a year earlier when she finished in 288th, & 400/800m specialists Ella Palmer & Hanna Winstone competing at ES XC for the first time ran well for 235th & 281st place respectively.

Final race of the day saw steeple chase specialist Jack Hope in action, and Jack ran well to finish top Northants scorer in 63rd.

A superb day for the Harriers and a significant and historic debut National Championship win for Emily Williams, who now hopes to build on this early career success and perhaps follow in the footsteps of many of the previous winners.

The final race of the season for most of the Harriers middle distance squad will be the Inter-counties Championships in Birmingham, where current UK Cross Challenge joint leader Dylan Bowley goes in the U13 Boys race hoping for a prominent position to clinch a podium placing in the UK Cross Challenge.

Well done to all the athletes who competed.