December 2021 / Rhagfyr 2021: John H Collins Gwent Cross Country League at Pembrey Country Park

Last month (4th December), the John H Collins Gwent Cross Country League, one of the most popular grassroots cross-country leagues in the UK, returned to West Wales for the fifth time.

1,200 runners of all abilities descended on Pembrey Country Park near Llanelli and races featured the under 11 athletes right up to the seniors and masters' categories.

Local club, Carmarthen & District Harriers Athletics Club hosted the third of five fixtures this season.

The league season began back in October when Llandaff Fields in Cardiff played host to the first British Athletics Cross Challenge Series as well as the John H Collins Gwent Cross Country. This was followed by the second meeting in Mid Wales at Parc de Pugh in Brecon three weeks ago.

Competitors, coaches, team managers, officials and spectators from more than 40 clubs travelled to the Carmarthenshire park from across South Wales and the South West of England.

On a demanding course that showcased the counties park and the surrounding areas, the competitors aged 9 to 80 tackled fast grass sections, hills, sand dunes, woods and paths. Participants had the opportunity to take in some breath-taking views around the route overlooking the coastal scenery of Carmarthen Bay and the Gower.

In addition to runners scoring points for their clubs, Pembrey also hosted the West Wales Cross Country Championships 2021 where regional medals were presented to the top three athletes from the region to finish in the junior, senior and master age groups.

The action got underway with the novice age groups running a total distance of 1,600m. The ten-race programme was followed by the under 13, under 15 and under 17 and 20 races (girls and boys) completing either small, medium or large laps.

In the latter part of the afternoon, the Senior & Master Women and Men ran their respective distances of 7,300m and 9,800m. There were big fields once again and plenty of support out on the course. 667 participants crossed the finish line in these two events.

Lauren Cooper of Parc Bryn Bach was the Senior Women’s winner in 26 minutes and was followed by Chelsea Creak (Bristol and West Athletic Club 26:24) and Alaw Beynon-Thomas (Les Croupiers Running Club 26:57).

Meanwhile in the Senior Men’s race, Joshua Griffiths from Swansea Harriers led from the gun to finish in first place in 29:32. Felix McGrath 30:23 and Tony Orvain 30:39, both from the Bristol and West Athletic Club, made up the top three positions.

The leading athletes in the master categories were Helene Represse MW35 (Bristol and West Athletic Club 27:42), Sandra Chapper MW45 (Lliswerry Runners 28:01), Claire Jolliffe MW55 (Bristol and West Athletic Club 30:07), Shirley Hume MW65 (Westbury Harriers), Richard Jones MM45 (Lliswerry Runners 33:21), Jon James MM55 (Wells City Harriers 33:49) and Alan Davies MM65 (Llanelli Athletics Club).

Claiming victories in the junior age groups - U11 to U20 - were Ella Drew (Swansea Harriers), Libby Hale (Swansea Harriers), Millie Gold (Cardiff Athletics), Megan Hornung (Bristol and West Athletic Club), Georgia Palmer (Cardiff University Athletics Club), Oliver Finch (North Somerset AC), Joseph Finch (North Somerset AC), Iwan Thomas (Carmarthen Harriers), Frank Morgan (Carmarthen Harriers) and Dafydd Jones (Carmarthen Harriers).

The club had fifty-four members attend the third fixture at Pembrey Country Park and produced some good results on a challenging course.

The 2021/2022 John H Collins Gwent Cross Country League will visit Blaise Castle in Bristol in the New Year on Saturday 19th February 2022, before the season ends at Singleton Park in Swansea next to the Mumbles seafront on Saturday 19th March.