Despite some fierce winter weather, the North Eastern Counties Athletic Association (NECAA) Cross Country Championships recorded its highest number of entries to date with a total of 1,453 runners signed up to take part. Sedgefield hosting the championships for the first time in over 110 competition events, turned out to be a successful ground for Rosie Smith and Patrick Martin, winner in the senior fields.
Sedgefield MP Phill Wilson set competitors on their way and they were quick to encounter the full force of freezing rain, muddy trails and heavy snowfall. Sunderland Stroller Aly Dixon finished third in the senior women’s race and summed up the day’s weather: “Massive big thank you to all officials and volunteers at today's North Eastern Cross Country Champs. By far the worst conditions I've ever raced in.”
Rosie Smith managed to secure her third victory in consecutive years (and sixth time in total) in 31:55, comfortably ahead of European and Commonwealth 1500m medallist Laura Weightman with Dixon in third place. In the men’s competition, Stockport Harriers’ Patrick Martin regained the title he last won in 2009 with an impressive victory ahead of Morpeth Harriers pair Carl Avery and Peter Newton.
Competitors and officials were quick to recognise the efforts of volunteers who made the event a possibility: Phil Houghton, chair of Sedgefield Harriers, comments: “It was a momentous day in our club’s history. Sedgefield Harriers was founded 10 years ago and this was a fitting finale to our birthday celebrations. We can’t thank all of the volunteers enough – from the club and its friends, the NECAA and 1st Sedgefield Scout Group. “
“We were very grateful to the NECAA for giving us the opportunity to host the championships - I think we did this great event justice. Finally, well done to every single runner who took part in what were hugely challenging conditions. You were all amazing.”