Guernsey Press

Veteran Merrien is a champion of Guernsey again

No one was going to present a lasting challenge to Lee Merrien when he lined up for Saturday’s Guernsey Cross-Country Championships.

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Lee Merrien on his way to another club title. (Picture by Andrew Le Poidevin, 32789942)

However, with Steve Dawes absent from the start line, young 800m star Chris Bain showed a different side of his athletic pedigree with a solid run for second over this much longer distance.

The senior men’s race consisted of around 8.5km on a brutal loop at Les Norgiots, which retained its usual thrills such as ‘disco corner’ and the mud-filled ‘trench’ even given a series of enforced alterations around unusable land. It was also covered with especially thick mud.

London 2012 Olympian Merrien had made a tangible gap on the Edinburgh University student shortly after the lap point and continued to stride away from there, winning convincingly in 33min. 59sec.

‘I really like cross-country, and it keeps me running,’ the winning veteran said.

‘When you’ve wound it down a little bit, you’re not going to be as good with times on the road. That’s what I like about cross-country – it’s not comparable.

‘I must admit, I didn’t really feel quite so motivated today, but I’m pleased I did it and stuck it out. Had Steve run today I think I would have had my work cut out to stay ahead of him.

‘But I do want to do the Hampshire [Cross-Country Championships] race and this is an ideal bit of preparation.’

Bain, who held on for second in 36-16, has been enjoying a shift in focus over recent months and revisiting his past as a cross-country runner.

‘Going into it, I knew I was in the best endurance shape I’ve been in and I thought I may as well try and stick with him and see what happens,’ he said.

‘I quite quickly found out I wasn’t going to be challenging him. It became a case of holding on for second, and I’m really happy I managed to stick with that.

‘8k’s certainly far enough for me. It’s been good fun to mix it up a little bit, as I think over the past few years I’ve just focused on track so much.’

Usually laser-focused on sprints and middle-distance track events, he said he had been training with some ‘really high-calibre’ endurance athletes at university. That could lead to racing more distance events next season.

‘I’m trying to be a bit more relaxed about it and see where things take me.’

The influence of veterans continued with V40 Peter Amy taking third in 36-56 and V45 Matt Jamieson placing fourth another 29sec. back. Carl Holden completed the top five.

Top woman Nix Petit leads junior Kiko Rocha and Chris Gillman around a muddy corner. (Picture by Andrew Le Poidevin, 32789944)

The women’s race took a predictable direction as Nix Petit led consistently to retain her title.

Freed from her rivalry against Ulrike Maisch, who is currently nursing a niggle, she dominated the three-lap, 6.4km race in 31-20.

Petit is unbeaten in the last three cross-country races and will soon bring her strong form into the Hampshire Championships.

The Bain family did secure another runner-up spot as U20 athlete Kate, now an Exeter University student, followed in 35-27.

Like her brother she has made her name mainly over the middle distances, but she showed enough stamina here to hold off triathlon veteran Amy Critchlow and finish 21sec. clear.

There were only four competitors in the women’s championship, with the majority electing to race the ‘sportive’ and U17 option over two laps.

There, U17 Jack Rees claimed a victory margin exceeding 3min. after comparing favourably to the top senior athletes during his shorter run.

U17 Eleanor Jamieson was the first woman in, followed just under a minute later by age-group rival Hannah Kennedy.

U15 James Stafford-Bell won the single-lap race for younger juniors in 9-52 but was followed just 10sec. later by a charging Emil Friedrich, the leading U13.

Many of the athletes across the age groups are indebted to popular coach and endurance stalwart Paul Ingrouille, whose 60th birthday came the day before.

Ingrouille completed the senior event in a rare racing outing but not before receiving a shout-out and a birthday gift on the start line.