Last-minute entries could be contenders
IT WILL not be until James Priest eyes the starting line-up on Saturday that he knows precisely what lies ahead in his bid to defend his Guernsey Athletics Club Championships cross-country title.
As the standalone championship race heads to the infamously tough Les Norgiots for a second year running, some uncertainty hangs over who will be present to challenge Priest, who strode out to win last year’s event by over two minutes.
FNB Cross Country League leader Richard Friedrich is the one competitor who has consistently surpassed Priest this season, but work commitments mean that his turnout is by no means guaranteed.
Among the women, title holder Laura McCarthy is unlikely to return and training partners Sarah Mercier and Jenny James are clear favourites by form.
But organiser Chris Gillman expressed his feeling that ‘there may be some surprises in terms of last-minute entries’ and that several university-based athletes could also potentially boost the field.
What remains certain is that the course, up to 7.2 miles for the senior men and designed with the upcoming Hampshire Cross Country Championships in mind, will pose a challenge to all competitors.
‘It was just simply so muddy, and with the wind being so strong and the biting cold rain, I don’t think you can prepare us much better than that,’ said Gillman after last year’s event.
‘The technical section probably was a little bit different to what we’re used to, but, largely, everybody seems to have enjoyed it.’
Said technical section, dubbed ‘the trench’, involves a prolonged climb of an exceptionally narrow and mud-prone single track.
The current forecast indicates similarly testing conditions underfoot to last year, while rutted fields and twisty turns make for tough going even on the firmer patches of the route.
Racing starts at 1pm and runners will compete over two to five laps of circa 1.4 miles depending on level and age category.
n The Hampshire Cross Country Championships return to the popular recent venue of Fairthorne Manor, near Eastleigh, on 4 January.