Two dozen Spartans set for Hants’ cross-country challenge

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It will be a new experience for two veterans in the senior team – John Coote, who has had several good runs recently, including two wins in the Graeme Le Maistre cross-country series, and Phil Ahier, a regular top-ten finisher who is also no mean triathlete.

‘It’s a new course for us all this time,’ team manager Jo McGarry said, ‘so we’re not sure what to expect.

I understand it’s quite hilly.

John’s been running very well recently, he’s in good form, and so is Phil.

And Nick (Gorrod) and Paul (Raimbault) have run this before so know what to expect.’ An experienced ladie’s team travels, led by McGarry, with Sue Le Ruez having taken part several times, along with the on-form Amanda Brown and Kerry Petulla.

McGarry, coming back from an injury, says she is struggling a bit to regain her form.

‘I’m not optimistic it’ll be fully back in time for Hampshire, we’ll jut have to see how it goes on the day.

I’ve had a lot of colds and things, which puts back recovery.

I think that it may be because I trained so hard to try and get Commonwealth qualifying times in the summer, and my body is just tired.

It will come back, I just have to be patient.’ But she is looking forward to the race, held over an undulating course at Staunton Country Park, near Havant.

All but three of the juniors have taken part in the Hampshire event before, and the newcomers are all in the U13 age-group.

‘Carey Fenton, Sam Ward and Robert Wilkinson are all new to these championships,’ said junior team manager Paul Raimbault, ‘but they are all regular runners, in the Alexander Forbes cross-country series.’ The main difference for all the youngsters will be the number of runners who’ll be taking part in each age-group.

‘They’ve competed in schools cross-country but the number of starters in races here is much lower than in Hampshire,’ said Raimbault.

‘The ones who went last year are all very keen to go again.

Hampshire takes the top eight finishers in each race to represent them in the inter-county championships.

‘Nicola Milner qualified last year, in the U13 category, and ended up with a silver medal.

She now moves up to the next age-group and although she’s been training hard it will be more difficult for her this time.

‘Felicity Johnson-Deeley has done well this season.

Last year she was ninth in the U13 age-group, just pipped for selection, so we’re hopeful she will get into that top eight this time – but it all depends on who else is running on the day.’ Toby Edwards and Tom Brown, in the U17 category, have given the seniors a run for their money in recent cross-country races so they, too, are hoping for a good result.

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