Pembrey Country Park, situated near Llanelli got the opportunity to showcase what it has to offer over the weekend as the re-named John H Collins Gwent Cross Country League, one of the most popular cross-country leagues in the UK, returned to West Wales for the fourth year in succession. (Saturday 9th November)
Local Club, Carmarthen & District Harriers and Carmarthenshire County Council again worked in partnership to bring the fixture back to the county of Carmarthenshire which saw almost 1,450 competitors take part over the ten-race programme.
The league - formed in 1963 has continued across South Wales and the South West of England every year since then and attracts the best cross-country runners from Wales and the South West of England.
A fantastic venue in Carmarthenshire that hosted the first leg of the Tour of Britain Cycling Event in September 2018, the finale of the OVO Energy Women's Tour in June and followed by the Welsh Athletics Road Relay Championships at the start of the winter season a couple of months ago, the latest sporting event to descend on the park was cross-country running.
Set inside 500 acres of woodland, and alongside eight miles of golden sands near Cefn Sidan Beach, the facility was a great setting and provides a perfect family day out, activities, weekend camping break or a relaxing holiday in beautiful surroundings.
With races featuring the under 11 athletes right up to the seniors and masters categories, almost 1,450 runners of all abilities and experience, as well as a big turnout of spectators and coaches descended on Pembrey Country Park on Saturday.
Competitors from over 30 clubs travelled from all corners of Wales including Pembrokeshire, Brecon, Swansea, Cardiff and Newport, and across the bridge from the South West of England such as Bristol and further afield.
This fixture was held just four weeks after the opening round at Llandaff Fields in Cardiff, where the league played host with round 1 of the British Athletics Cross Challenge series.
This was no basic course around a sports field. On a demanding course that showcased the counties park and the surrounding areas, the competitors aged 9 to 80 tackled fast grass sections, sand dunes, woods and paths with the course winning praise. Any mud was hard to find thanks to the excellent underfoot conditions with elements ideal for cross country running - early heavy rain giving way to showery and cool conditions for the event itself.
Neil Thomas, Senior Outdoor Recreation Manager at Pembrey Country Park, said: "Carmarthenshire County Council was delighted to welcome athletes and spectators to Pembrey Country Park for the second John H Collins Gwent Cross Country League fixture of the 2019/20 season. Its successful partnership with Carmarthen and District Harriers Athletics Club continues to jointly attract major events to one of Wales' top visitor attractions."
"It was a challenging but fast course through flat parkland, forest trails, man-made hills and a little bit of sand. It was designed to be accessible for all runners of all speeds and abilities."
The course had excellent spectating views for those who came out to watch on Saturday afternoon, whilst participants had the chance to take in some breath-taking sights around the route overlooking Carmarthen Bay and the Gower.
In addition to runners scoring points for their clubs, Pembrey also hosted the West Wales Cross Country Championships 2019 where regional medals were presented to the top three athletes from the region to finish in all races.
The action all got underway early on Saturday morning with the stars of the future kicking off the day's race day programme in the novice age groups. This was followed by the under 13, under 15 and under 17 and 20 races completing either small, medium or large laps. In the latter part of the afternoon, the Senior & Master Women were out on show with the Senior Men & Master Men concluding the day's racing and coming as no surprise, saw the biggest field go over the start line.
Over previous years, more and more seniors have been introduced to the local cross-country races and here at Pembrey, numbers were up from 2018 as 359 finished in the women's race whilst a bumper turnout of 429 men completed the 9.9km distance showing that the league is going from strength to strength.
The Senior & Masters Women's race winner Alaw Beynon-Thomas (Swansea Harriers) returned to the venue where she ran her first cross country event.
She commented afterwards: "I was really pleased to take the win today. I felt good and managed to pull away towards the end after a good battle with the other front runners.
"As always the course and organisation was great. There was a nice mix of flat fast sections and some tricky hills. I loved coming back here (to Pembrey) as its where I did my first Llanelli Schools cross country competition back in the day.
"Congratulations again to Carmarthen Harriers and Carmarthenshire County Council for hosting a superb event."
In the corresponding age group, it was Morgan Davies who came out on top for the men ahead of Cardiff Athletics duo James Heneghan and Matt Edwards in 2nd and 3rd. This made it a Swansea Harriers double in the senior categories.
"It felt great to take what was my first win at a senior Gwent League," Triathlete Davies from Porthcawl said. "My plan was to basically, race it as a time trial which was good enough for the victory but I'm especially pleased with the performance and how the body felt.
"The course was perfect for a quick day, and still had challenges to break up the rhythm with kicks and the sand dune. Overall, I loved the course and had a great day taking part and watching the other races throughout the afternoon!"
From a junior's point of view, approximately 640 youngsters were also in attendance competing and enjoyed the race day atmosphere from under 11 to under 20 level.
Claiming junior victories throughout the younger age groups were William Coles (Carmarthen Harriers), Henry Dawes (Newport Harriers), Seamus Robinson (Westbury Harriers), Lloyd Sheppard (Cardiff Athletics), Nathan Jones (Swansea Harriers), Estelle Lowe (Westbury Harriers), Laura Chance (Westbury Harriers), Megan Hornung (Bristol & West AC), Rosie Hamilton-James (Westbury Harriers) and Hannah Jenkins (Porthcawl Runners).
Carmarthen Harriers (Host Club) Athletes Results & Round-Up:
In a turnout of over 45 runners thanks to the work of Team Managers Kathryn Jones, Keighley John and Jamie Best, it was a great opportunity for many of the newer and established athletes to compete on home soil. A range of ages from the novices, juniors and senior athletes turned out in big numbers which was great to see.
Da iawn pawb a diolch i bawb wnaeth yr ymdrech i gymryd rhan...Well done everyone and thanks to all those who made the effort to compete. Our Novices, under 13's and under 15 boys in particular continue to fly high in the league table and will hold onto top 5 spots going into the half way point in the season. A number of individual runners also are placed in the top 10 heading into round 3 which goes across to hosts Westbury Harriers at Blaise Castle, Bristol.
Athletes & Positions / Athetwyr a Safleoedd...
Novice Girls / Merched O Dan 11: 2 Amelia Williams (5:38); 6 Jessica Norman (6:01); 15 Esme Lynock (6:14)
Novice Boys / Bechgyn O Dan 11: 1 William Coles (5:16); 5 Jac Jones (5:29), 26 Tristan Warrender (5:58); 33 Joseph Thomas (6:05); 49 Ashton Williams (6:17); 70 Alexandry Radulescu (6:35); 74 Toby Anthony (6:41); 75 Tom Morgan (6:42); 100 Alex Hill (7:23)
Under 13 Girls / Merched O Dan 13: 9 Frances Mackie (11:42); 13 Carys Wood (11:54), 30 Ellie-May John (12:33); 44 Bessy Hill (13:26)
Under 13 Boys / Bechgyn O Dan 13: 2 Iwan Thomas (10:10); 4 Ifan Bowen (10:18); 11 Macsen Toogood (10:41); 23 Llyr Jones (11:05); 26 Jake Lynock (11:09); 30 Alex Coles (11:14); 42 Daniel Warrender (11:38); 50 Aron Hedd Jones (12:00); 59 Tygan Davies (12:11); 60 Liam Upton-Boorman (12:12)
Under 15 Girls / Merched O Dan 15: 18 Amy Greatrick (14:31)
Under 15 Boys / Bechgyn O Dan 15: 15 Zach Elvy (12:50); 32 Steffan Davies (13:30); 35 Scott Price (13:34); 36 Jack Thomas (13:38); 56 Brynmor Peters (14:19); 58 Morgan Williams (14:21); 59 Ellis Caddick (14:25); 70 Rogan Cox (15:08)
Under 17 Women / Merched O Dan 17: 21 Tanwen Moon (21:57)
Under 17 Men / Bechgyn O Dan 17: 6 Dafydd Jones (15:57)
Under 20 Women / Merched O Dan 20: 2 Eva Edwards (18:47)
Under 20 Men / Bechgyn O Dan 20: 4 Iestyn Williams (15:46); 12 Marcus Etheridge (16:29)
Senior & Master Women / Menywod: Wendy Price (29:58); Kate Parker (34:27); Amanda Toogood (40:55)
Senior & Master Men / Dynion: Guto Morgans (37:30); Jamie Best (38:50); Huw Davies (40:02); Jonathan Cox (43:42)
Overall, the day was a resounding success with athletes and clubs commenting on their satisfaction with the venue and course. Pembrey Country Park have been successful in bringing the Welsh Athletics Cross Country Championships to the park on its three-year cycle.
For the second year, The Welsh Athletics Cross Country Championships will use an identical course to the Gwent League in a few months' time when the best from all corners of the Welsh nation will descend on Carmarthenshire's park on Saturday 22nd February.
Hosting any sporting event takes a lot of work ahead of and on the day.: Carmarthen & District Harriers Athletics Club would like to thank all the club members and parents and organiser Neil Thomas in particular, Carmarthenshire County Council, Pembrey Country Park, Gwent Cross Country League, St John Ambulance Llanelli, our local caterers and all Harriers course marshals, volunteers and set up/down team who all contributed towards a superb day! Many worked hard setting up on Friday afternoon and continued in heavy rain and strong winds from 7am on Saturday before completing the set down shortly after 5pm.
Edward Morgan did an excellent job as announcer, interviewing a few of the winners and others which was a great way to get everyone involved.
On behalf of all at the host club, we hope that all clubs, athletes, officials and spectators enjoyed your visit to West Wales/Carmarthenshire and had a safe journey to and from Pembrey.
Here's what some of you, runners, coaches and spectators, had to say to us on our Facebook & Twitter @CarmsHarriers pages post-event:
Chris Fulcher: "Great day. Thanks to all that gave there time and helped out for us to do what we enjoy."
Chris Jenkins: "Massive kudos to all the volunteers clearing the course away in the rain."
Richard Govier: "Great event thanks to all the marshals."
Joanne Ryan: "Great day out, thanks to all that made it possible."
Joanne Tucker: "Extremely well organised as always thank you for delivering a safe racing event!"
Jason Price: "Thank you all, a great day at the races."
Lucy Archer: "#bacbobblehat on tour @pembreycountrypark for the second event in the #gwentleague season. Team managing, supporting & providing all important cake for our @bridgendathletic junior athletes. Diolch @CarmsHarriers."
Jack Longstaff: "Brilliant day as always. XC season is ace. Personally delighted - 9.5km in 35min 40s (100 places higher and 4min 30s quicker than last year)"
Gareth Hardman: "So solid running from the u17 & u20 @CardiffArchers boys at today’s Pembrey Gwent League XC. #teamhill Thanks to @CarmsHarriers for a superbly organised Event."
Sharon Leech: "Diolch @CarmsHarriers a @ParkPembrey, wedi mwynhau, cwrs bendigedig!"
CDF Runners: "Had a great time at Pembrey Cross Country today! Lovely lumpy course with wonderful support. And of course thank you to @CarmsHarriers for hosting us!"
Ogmore Phoenix: "@CarmsHarriers thanks for a great event today. #teamphoenix thoroughly enjoyed. See you at the next fixture."
Bridgend Athletics: "Awesome job from all the #teambridgend juniors & seniors at today’s #gwentleaguexc at the stunning @ParkPembrey. Great to see some new faces racing in yellow&blue. Thanks to @CarmsHarriers for hosting in changeable conditions #muddybrilliant"
Neath Harriers: @CarmsHarriers another excellent x country done and dusted #NeathNeathNeath"
Jake Morgan: Love @ParkPembrey as a x country venue - running across a dune today with a backdrop of the Gower thanks @CarmsCouncil @CarmsHarriers"
Richard Dando: "Definitely one of my favourite #gwentleagueXC courses @ParkPembrey Well done to all #teambridgend runners & @CarmsHarriers for hosting #muddybrilliant"
Morgan Davies: "Enjoyed that one! #GwentLeague #CrossCountry #XC #Running #SwanseaHarriers
Lauren Cooper: "2nd place for @CardiffUniSport in senior men's and women's Gwent League XC at Pembrey. Tough competition in both races- well done."
Aberdare Valley AAC: "A memorable day for us at the 2nd fixture of the #GwentLeague at #pembreypark Over 100 of our athletes & supporters turned up to witness excellent individual & team performances, support was awesome!"
Rachel Brown: "Loved it! One of my favourite xc courses."
Leonie Roberts: "Thank you. It was a lovely run. #Gwentleague"
Nigel James: "Great event, well run,awesome location."
Owain Schiavone: "Diwrnod gwych yn @ParkPembrey ddoe - rasio o'r safon uchaf ar bob lefel oedran. Ail waith i fi redeg traws gwlad, a ddoe lot gwell na'r tro cyntaf! Trefniadau di-fai gan @CarmsHarriers."
Alaw Beynon-Thomas: "No better feeling!! Winning at my "home" event and where I ran my first ever xc all those years ago was amazing. Thanks @CarmsHarriers for another great event and course!!"
The 2019/2020 John H Collins Gwent Cross Country League programme is set to head next to the brilliant Blaise Castle in Bristol on December 7th, before in the New Year there will be a new course at Chepstow Racecourse and a grand finale to the league at Singleton Park in Swansea next to the Mumbles seafront on the first day of March 2020.
John H Collins Gwent Cross Country League Round 2 - Pembrey 09/11/19 RESULTS https://www.carmarthenharriers.co.uk/results/
The club media and website officer was out on the course throughout the day providing latest updates on social media. Check out more of our photos, videos and online coverage from Pembrey on our social media platforms:
Event Reporter & Media - Nathan Jones
If you were unable to be in Pembrey on Saturday or looking for some highlights from the day, check out our video highlights on YouTube below...