LYDIA TURNER clinched the individual gold medal and led Birtley to victory in the under-17 women’s race in the 127th English National Cross Country Championships at Nottingham’s Wollaton Park on Saturday.
The 17-year-old, who has come on leaps and bounds this season, snatched the title by just four seconds after a titanic battle with race favourite Bobbie Clay.
The pair were locked in combat approaching the end of the 5k undulating, testing course, with stretches of soggy mud to contend with, before Turner took command in the run-in to the finish.
Showing a good turn of speed, she edged clear of the Invicta East Kent athlete, striking for home to take the national title in 17.25
Turner said: “Once I got ahead I was confident I could hold on, although, I was aware that she might come again.
“This has got to be my best ever race, especially coming so soon after having missed four weeks training with a shoulder injury.”
With four-to-count in the team race, Birtley did not have to wait long for their next runner to finish in Hylton Lane’s Sophie Burnett.
The St Anthony’s pupil, after a steady start, got through to a superb 18th at the finish (19.09).
Then came Philippa Chambers in 32nd (19.34) and closing the scoring was Robyn Waugh 62nd (20.10).
Birtley (113pts) had just five points to spare on runners-up Aldershot with Charnwood third (179).
Morpeth Harriers lost their senior men’s title to Bedford (265pts), with the Northumberland club down in sixth (377). But they did have the first finisher from the North East in Nick Swinburn in an impressive fourth (36.46), behind the winner Steve Vernon (Stockport) 36.23.
Olympic triathlon bronze medallist Jonathan Brownlee, running for Bingley, finished ninth (37.03).
Durham City Harriers finished 23rd with three men in the first 100 in a field of 1658.
They were Northern champion Dan Garbutt in 14th, Dan Jenkin 49th and Ben Douglas 79th.
Sunderland Harriers finished 84th with Paul Redman 577th, Steven Gordon 580th, Tony Allinson 1011th, Peter Richardson 1128th, David Savage 1129, and Steven Tiltman 1146th.
Former Sunderland Harrier Weynay Ghebresilasie, third in the championships at Herrington Country Park last year, came very close to winning the under-20 title in the colours of Birchfield.
The Eritrean Olympic steeplechaser entered the home straight in the lead, but when challenged by Reading’s Jonathan Davies in the last 80 metres, he surrendered his lead, losing by four seconds.
Gateshead’s Calum Johnson was fourth and the Tynesiders were second team.
Houghton Harrier Alex Brown had a good run to finish 26th in the under-15 boys’ race where Crook’s Markim Lonsdale was runner-up.
Durham’s Chloe Price finished 40th in the junior women’s race and the team were fifth.
Middlesbrough’s Mandale’s Joshua Cowperthwaite won the under-13s race.
Favourite Gemma Steel (Charnwood) took the women’s title with Morpeth’s Ashley’s Gibson 13th.