South Yorkshire athletes are in action today for the Yorkshire Cross Country Championships at Lightwater Valley near Ripon.
Meles Okbazghi (Sheffied Running Club) is defending champion in the men’s race. Last year he won a close contest on the same course beating Leeds City international James Wilkinson and triathlon star Jonny Brownlee (Bingley). Okbazghi could find it easier this time. Wilkinson has been out injured for several months and Brownlee has not entered this time. Phillip Hoole (Rotherham) is another South Yorkshire athlete who should be well placed.
Hallamshire, fourth in the team race last year, have Andy Heyes, back from the USA, among their entries. With a lineup that includes Rob Little, Matt Hobbs and Dave Archer, they could challenge for team medals.
Rotherham defend their women’s team title with Sam Johnson, their top runner last year, leading them again. Although without Jade Allen, they can field a good squad although Wakefield will provide a strong challenge if at strength.
Julia Jagger and Nicola Squires should be well placed for Hallamshire.
Tom Bains (Hallamshire) defends his junior (under 20) title with Doncaster’s Bertie Houghton among his challengers whilst Josh Naisbitt (City of Sheffield) aims for a second win at under 17 level. His Sheffield team-mate Jonathon Shield, the under 15 champion, moves up to the under 17 section.
Alfie Manthorpe won the under 13 race last year and is now an under 15 along with his City of Sheffield team mate Julian Slater whilst Barnsley’s Scott Nutter challenges for the under 13 title.
The junior women run with the seniors and Hallamshire’s Fiona Bell is a challenger for the title . City of Sheffield almost had a clean sweep of the medals in last year’s under 13 girls race through Amelia Lancaster, Mariella De Lara and Emily Simpson. This trio should make a big impact in their first year as under 15s whilst Hallamshire’s Tilly Simpson is a contender at under 13 level.
As well as team and individual medals at stake, athletes are competing for places in the Yorkshire teams for the Inter Counties in March.
The long programme starts at 11:10 with the under 13 girls race. The final race for senior men is at 2:10.