Merrien leads Guernsey’s men to second-ever county cross-country gold
The Guernsey men’s squad are celebrating their second team gold in a long history of contesting the annual Hampshire Cross-Country Championships.
Going in on seemingly shaky footing with several big names in jeopardy or missing altogether, the Sarnians seemed unlikely to match their career high set by a star-studded squad in 2016.
But on Saturday, the crisp winter sun shone on them at Botley’s Fairthrone Manor as talisman Lee Merrien came home in seventh, soon followed by a flying Sam Lesley in ninth as Alex Rowe also cracked the top 10.
Isaac Bate (20th), Dan Galpin (21st) and Jack Le Tissier (25th) completed the scoring six, who edged Southampton by nine positions and Aldershot by 26.
‘Every one of our scoring runners got it right on the day, getting the best out of themselves and chasing every place,’ coach and team manager Paul Ingrouille said.
Six Sarnians were in the top 30 early on but the manager assumed Southampton were ahead until their coach, Steve Phillips, and Aldershot supremo Mick Woods came over and clearly believed that Guernsey were leading.
‘All our runners seemed to edge forwards and pick off important places as the race progressed,’ Ingrouille added.
‘Three in the top 10 was a great result. Lee has a talismanic effect but arguably run of the day was Sam Lesley in ninth.’
Merrien emerged with individual V40 silver and also spearheaded a veterans’ team gold.
This vets’ team title proved especially significant for V40 bronze medallist Pete Amy, who continues to courageously battle cancer and is preparing for an imminent major surgery, which will mean a long hiatus from running – at best.
‘It’s what I wanted, really,’ Amy said.
‘I didn’t want to come away empty-handed, put it that way.’
• Full report in Tuesday's Guernsey Press