UNSEASONAL conditions greeted a record number of teams for the latest instalment of the Start Fitness-supported Northern Athletics Cross-Country Relay Championships at Graves Park, Sheffield and it was City of York (CoY) who hit the headlines with a first-time success following a highly-impressive gun-to-tape victory in the senior men’s 4×2- mile contest which once again incorporated the Cutlers Relays.

CoY had never finished in a medal position prior to Saturday, however, they set out their stall from the off thanks to the fastest time of the day of 9min 55sec by Angus McMillan who reached the first changeover 20 seconds clear of Salford’s Ryan Worland with Liverpool Pembroke and Sefton’s Ross Harrison in third place a further four seconds adrift. Meanwhile, Leeds City the NA Six-Stage Road Relay champions, had their A team in fifth and their B team in sixth.

James Tucker extended CoY’s advantage on leg two as Ethan Hussey brought Leeds through into second place and Bertie Houghton, with the stage’s fastest time (10:27), improved Hallamshire from 12th to fourth just behind Salford’s Sam Hopkins.

The gap at the head of affairs was widening with every stride thanks to track specialist Alex Botterill and entering the final changeover CoY had around a one minute cushion as Hallamshire (Tommy Power) moved into second place ahead of Salford’s Karl Darcy. Whilst Botterill was quickest on the stage, the biggest mover was Callum Davidson who brought Blackburn through to ninth after setting off in 20th place.

Barring a mishap, it looked all most over as a contest especially as CoY had Commonwealth Games triathlon mixed relay gold medallist Sam Dickinson setting off on the glory leg. Dickinson, 25, the oldest member of the CoY quartet, and fresh from an arguably best-ever individual triathlon performance where he finished in third place in Tongyeong, South Korea, had just the clock to beat and he didn’t ease back as he added to his team’s lead and brought them home with the third best time of the day of 10:04 and resulting in an overall time of 40:44.

Euan Brown consolidated Hallamshire’s silver medal position as Richard Allen brought Leeds A through to complete the medal positions ahead of Salford. Blackburn’s late charge saw Daniel Bebbington move them up to fifth with the stage fastest time of 10:01.

SENIOR WOMEN (3×2-mile)

While City of York led throughout the senior men’s contest it was a completely different story in the women’s event with the lead changing on each of the three legs.

For a long while it looked like Molly Hudson would be at the head of affairs come the first changeover. However, misfortune was looming as she took a tumble and whilst she quickly got going again and was just in the lead with the finish line in sight, the early fall began to kick in and the NA Indoor 800m champion fell once again but bravely, after 10 of her rivals had overtaken her, managed to haul herself across the line where she was tended to by the first- aiders. Thankfully, after prolonged treatment, Hudson recovered to the relief of everyone especially the officials who were at their posts nearby when the incident happened.

Vale Royal, thanks to Abigail Howarth, led at the first changeover (12:05), five seconds ahead of East Cheshire’s Emilia Platt with Mya Taylor (Rotherham) a further three seconds adrift in third place.

On the penultimate leg India Barwell (12:19) brought Lincoln Wellington to the fore with a 25-seconds lead over Chorley (Bethany Reid) who had improved eight places with Vale Royal now in third position a further seven seconds back. The lead changed for a third time on the last leg when it mattered most as Laurel McNeil brought Hallamshire from fourth into gold medal position with the day’s fastest time of 11:44 which gave them a 13-second cushion at the line over Lincoln Wellington with Vale Royal completing the one-two- three a further eight seconds adrift. After the earlier mishap Derby eventually finished in fourth place.

UNDER-17 MEN (3×2.3k)

Only 19 teams started, the only age group which had less than last year’s numbers but, nevertheless it proved an exciting contest.

Vale Royal (Isaac Leyton) led the charge to the first changeover two seconds clear of Wirral’s Alex Poulston with fellow Merseysiders’, Liverpool (Liam McCay) in third place a further five seconds back.

Salford (Ethan Nation), who were in fifth place after leg one, moved to the front on the penultimate stage and were nine seconds ahead of Wirral (Louis Hatton) with Vale Royal (Thomas Taylor) dropping back to third a further five seconds adrift. On the final leg Vale Royal’s Robert Price quickly cut back the deficit on the leaders and moved to the front just after half-way around the circuit to bring his team home in first place with the day’s fastest time of 7:07. Salford (Alfie Simons) finished in silver medal position just three seconds adrift of Vale Royal with Thomas Carpenter (Lincoln Wellington) completing the podium places ahead of Rotherham.

UNDER-17 WOMEN (3×2.3k)

Stockport’s Freya Murdoch posted the fastest time of the day (8:05) on the first stage of the contest but unfortunately it was to no avail as she was the club’s only representative. Following her to the changeover were Blackburn (Isabel Holt), City of York, Derby and Rotherham’s first and second strings. On leg two Evie Thompson, with the stage fastest time of 8:29, brought Rotherham A to the head of affairs followed by Blackburn’s Evie Taylor and Trafford’s Ava Clough. Lilia Harris extended Rotherham’s lead on the glory leg with a clocking of 8:24 to bring them home with an 18 second cushion over Trafford (Sara Clough) with City of York (Lottie Langan) finishing in third place.

UNDER -15 BOYS (3x2k)

Blackburn’s Oliver Gill came to the first changeover two seconds ahead of Salford’s Jamie Barbour with Archie Peaker (Keighley) four seconds back in third place. Bobby Burton moved into the lead on the second stage passing over two seconds clear of Blackburn (Samuel Aspey) with Pio Aron, with the stage’s fastest time of 7:13.

moving Trafford up to third ahead of Keighley and Doncaster. Evan Grime took over for the leaders and proceeded to pull away from his rivals by posting the fastest overall time of the day of 6:51 which brought the Greater Manchester outfit home in 21:10. Blackburn’s Matthew Smith consolidated second place as did Trafford’s Tim Ye in third position to complete the medal placings.

UNDER-15 GIRLS (3x2k)

With the day’s quickest time of 7:47 Eva Jha brought Vale Royal to the first changeover in first place ahead of Liverpool (Holly Cross) and Wakefield (Rosie Thistlewood) followed by Lincoln Wellington and Liverpool’s second strings. Rotherham moved to the front on stage two thanks to Katie Battle as Liverpool A (Molly Carvell) consolidated second place ahead of Sale whose Isobel Hall posted the fastest stage time of 7:57. On the final leg Grace Igoe extended Rotherham’s advantage bringing the Yorkshire trio home to a 23 seconds victory over Sale (Emily Purdy) with Liverpool (Bailey Hughes) crossing the line just a further two seconds adrift in third place.

UNDER-13 BOYS (3×1.8k)

Another event which saw the lead change throughout the contest. Derby were ahead at the first changeover thanks to Oscar Blake’s 5:33 clocking. Thomas Wood (Macclesfield) was three seconds adrift in second place followed by Sale’s Daniel Oakes. On stage two Macclesfield moved to the front thanks to Bobby Tomlinson as Isaac McGuffie improved Warrington 11 places to hand over in second place ahead of Wirral’s Malachi Hardy followed by Hallamshire and Sale. On the final leg the lead changed once again as Hallamshire’s Thomas Thake, with the best overall time of 5:09 brought his team home in pole position 10 seconds ahead of Wirral with Macclesfield (Jake Ireland) finishing in third place ahead of Warrington and Hallamshire’s second string.

UNDER-13 GIRLS (3×1.8k)

Just as she did at the NA Road Relay Championships Maya Schofield posted the day’s fastest time (5:38) to lead Rotherham to the first changeover ahead of Birtley’s Kitty Graham and Wirral’s Isla Pastor with Sale in fourth place followed by Liverpool A and B teams. The Yorkshire outfit still held the upper hand at the final changeover thanks to Esme Milburne though Birtley (Olivia Murphy) had closed the gap to just six seconds. Oonagh McManus moved Sale up to third followed by Liverpool A and Lincoln Wellington. On the final leg Nell Graham, twin sister of Kitty, quickly overhauled Rosalie Bailey (Rotherham) with the stages’ fastest time to bring the North East team home victorious by 14 seconds as Sale (Lola Richardson) followed Rotherham to complete the medal placings ahead of Liverpool A and City of York.

Twelve months ago the Birtley club came out on top in the under-11 relay and they now add the NA XC title to the road relay crown they won in Manchester last month.

UNDER-11s (3×1.5k)

The non-championship events saw Liverpool A (Bobby McEvoy, Sam Lambert and Lucas Guyett) win the boy’s contest ahead of Wirral (Joshua Cowan, Tommy Reynolds and Owen Oswick) with Liverpool’s B team of Luke Murphy, Dylan Devine and Seb Rung) finishing in third place ahead of Darlington, Trafford and Wakefield.

Liverpool also celebrated winning two sets of medals in the girls contest with the trio of Alex Ball, Isabella Parry and Beau Rawcliffe claiming first place ahead of Hallamshire (Neela Watkinson, Amelia Burbeary and Jessica Thake) with the Merseysiders’ second string of Esme Cameron, Honor Peers and Jasmine Hardman claiming the third place awards.

**Thanks go to Start Fitness for their continuing sponsorship; to all the volunteer marshals and technical officials; and the first aid team and to all the athletes who took part, without their input there would not be a championship.