Sarnian strength shows as women’s team strike gold

SUPERIOR strength in depth helped Guernsey’s women strike team gold at Saturday’s Hampshire Cross-Country Championships.

Typically it has been the job of the senior men to bring back a team medal from the annual trip to Fairthorne Manor in the Southampton countryside, and they lived up to that trend by securing silver in the final race of the day.

But by then Guernsey were already basking in the glory of their first senior team gold – be it male or female – since 2016.

Nat Whitty, who had headed home the triumphant Guernsey women with individual bronze, called the team result ‘amazing’.

‘It’s testament to the strength in depth in the team,’ she said.

‘I am very proud of our team – it bodes well for the Island Games.’

Former middle-distance specialist Whitty settled quickly among the front-runners for the 7km race, which stuck true to the recent trend of thick mud and dismal conditions.

But the ensuing stream of green-and-white Guernsey vests suggested that something even greater was afoot.

Nothing is a given on this brutal course, and misfortune soon struck as Commonwealth Games athlete Sarah Roe had to withdraw mid-race due to calf injury – she was on track to be second Guernsey counter.

But, as Whitty finished behind two strong Winchester runners, triathlete Megan Chapple (sixth) just held off Guernsey cross-country champion Nix Petit (seventh) nearly a minute back in a close sprint that showcased two of the island’s top emerging female distance runners.

Emma Etheredge closed off the counting four by placing 15th.

Despite Winchester’s one-two up front, Guernsey’s tight spread of finishers allowed the island to outpoint them narrowly and pinch the gold.

Did Whitty ever have an individual medal in her expectations?

‘No, I did not – I thought maybe third on the team,’ the modest runner said.

‘To be fair, Hampshire cross is very hit and miss as to who turns up… you never know until the day what the situation is going to be.

‘I definitely did not expect a podium. When I started I was top four, top five, and I did not really want to be there, but I felt pretty comfortable and thought, “I’m just going to run with it and see how it pans out”.’

It panned out well, but not enough to stop Winchester’s Helen Hall finishing nearly a minute in front.

Guernsey’s current depth of quality athletes also showed in the 10km men’s race, where Steve Dawes excelled in particular.

Steve Dawes leading two Winchester runners. (Picture by Phil Nicolle, 31661159)

The former senior champion showed real lasting quality in winning veteran gold and placing ninth overall, edging teammate Richard Bartram by 7sec. and one position.

The recent Bath University graduate led in several other young, UK-based athletes, namely Alex Rowe (13th), Sammy Galpin (16th) and Sam Lesley (19th). James Priest placed 25th individually to complete the scoring six.

Guernsey’s solid depth could not prevent Southampton from defending their title, but it came down to fine margins with just eight points splitting the teams.

A silver in the concurrent veterans’ event sweetened the deal, with Dawes’ golden run complementing the performances of Matt Jamieson, Nick Mann and Danny Blake.

The senior races topped off a long morning of junior competition, which brought further medals for the islanders.

Thierry Le Cheminant took an honourable second to Southampton’s brilliant Ben Brown in the U20 men’s race and, together with fellow top-10 finishers Jack Le Tissier and Gian-Luca Robilliard, spearheaded a team silver.

The U13 boys claimed the same team medal, led by James Stafford-Bell’s individual bronze. Thomas Holt, Emil Friedrich and Max Roger completed the quartet.

This came as the U13 girls missed out on bronze by a mere two points in their event.

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