Golden boy Oakley leads the way for Nene Valley Harriers
Sam Oakley of Nene Valley Harriers was the only local gold medallist at the Cambridgeshire Cross-Country Championships held in St Neots on Sunday.
There were, however, plenty of podium places and team medals won by athletes from Peterborough AC and Nene Valley.
Oakley finished third in the Under 13 race this time last year, but 12 months is a long time in athletics and his extra experience and strength meant that he was able to see off the rest of the field with relative ease.
The victory earned Oakley an invitation to represent the East of England at this year’s London Mini-marathon.
The senior men’s race provided one of the day’s highlights as Peterborough AC narrowly pipped Nene Valley to team bronze, behind the all-conquering Cambridge and Coleridge teams who took both silver and gold.
Peterborough were led home by James Whitehead in eighth place, and grouped superbly with Amittai Ben-Israel 20th, Danny Snipe 21st, Simon Mead 22nd, Stuart Haw 24th and Jon Peet making up the scoring team in 37th.
Nathan Tweedie finished 12th for Nene Valley just ahead of 16th-placed Rob Brownlee. Sam Hunt finished 25th, James Macdonald 35th and Mike Chapman 36th.
The first two locals home were serial Frostbite League winner Paul Vernon of PACTRAC in fourth position, and Yaxley speedster James Mogridge three places further back.
Werrington’s Paul Halford finished 13th.
The Under 20 men ran with the seniors, and the energy-sapping 10k course was a big step up in distance for many of them.
Nevertheless Nene Valley rose to the occasion winning team silver. Jevan Robertson took the individual bronze with Oliver Bowling finishing sixth and Rio Chilvers seventh.
Peterborough’s Under 17 men were third-place finishers thanks to Louis Turner (14th), Nathan Copeland (15th) and Ben Papworth (20th).
Former Eye Community Runners athlete Isaac Ellard, now running in Bedford and County AC colours, won bronze and Nene Valley’s Oliver Oakley was 13th.
Josie Fortune finished third Under 17 girl, and also won team bronze along with her Nene Valley team-mates Ellie Piccaver and Imogen Woodward, who were fourth and 10th.
Lottie Hemmings of Nene Valley took bronze in the Under 13 girls race with Elisha Foord ninth. Peterborough AC’s Elizabeth Taylor finished 11th.
Nene Valley’s senior women displayed their strength in depth as they won team bronze.
The club attract athletes from Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire, and under the competition birth and residency rules several of their leading ladies are not eligible to run in the Cambridgeshire Championship.
This proved to be nothing more than a minor inconvenience as Sophie Wilkinson-Hargate in 12th, Louise Blake 14th and Jordan Foster (16th) all had inspired runs and won team bronze. Wilkinson-Hargate also picked up the Over 35 silver.
Peterborough’s Under 11 girls were among the medals with Eliza Mardon picking up individual bronze, and the team of Mardon, Harriet Smith (13th) and Jaia Bull (18th) claiming team silver.
The PAC Under 11 boys won team bronze with Benjamin Fairclough their highest placed finisher in fourth with Oliver Burden ninth.
For Nene Valley, Nora Brill, Evie Hemmings, Jack Bull and Oliver Arden all made the top 10 in the Under 11 races.
The Under 15 Nene Valley girls won silver. Amber Park led them home in third place ahead of fifth-placed Katie Tasker and Molly Jones in sixth.
The Under 15 boys just missed out on team medals, finishing fourth with Ben Roberts first Harrier across the line in ninth spot.
The top eight from each race will represent Cambridgeshire in the Inter-Counties Championship later in the season. Both city clubs will be well represented.