Louth Athletics Club fielded two under 15 teams at the National Cross Country Relays for the first time in its history and they did not disappoint.
Heavy overnight rain made for a muddy course and a true test at Berry Hill Park, in Mansfield for Saturday’s relays, but despite a lack of experience at national level, the juniors performed brilliantly.
The girls’ race was first, with Issy Dhami out on the first leg.
A mass start of 118 girls with sharp elbows and even sharper metal spikes, all attempting to get to the front is no place for the faint-hearted, but Issy gave as good as she got and competed excellently to move into the top half of the field exiting the first long corner. The leg-sapping mud, coupled with the difficult wooded sections saw stronger, more experienced athletes take advantage, but Issy never stopped working, and handed over to Freya Plaskitt in 81st in a fast 8min 14.55secs.
A first-year under 15s athlete, Freya was taking on many girls older and bigger than herself on her national debut.
Freya was undaunted by the occasion and quality of the field and fought very well through the mud in a good solid time of 8min 48.35secs to hand over to Hannah Reid on the anchor leg in 80th.
Hannah has now put the injury problems of last winter behind her and is now starting to show glimpses of the form that made her a top track athlete in the 2016 season.
She stormed through the field taking an astounding 26 places to bring the team home in a fantastic 54th place with the 22nd fastest third leg of 8min 02.05secs. No other athlete passed more competitors.
The U15 boys were led off by Lloyd Buck, and despite his inexperience, he listened well to instruction and made a brilliant start.
He was quickly up into the top 30 of the 125 starters, despite being elbowed and spiked several times, and ran superbly through the wooded section.
Lloyd only began to find the pace hard in the last quarter of the 2km leg, and handed over to Matthew Spendlove in 64th position in an incredibly fast 7min 11.15secs.
Matthew is another first-year U15 athlete, competing at national level for the first time, and ran a very competent leg, dropping only a few places to older athletes from big clubs and will be delighted with his time of 7min 41.25secs.
Out on the anchor leg, Caleb Stephenson worked tirelessly through a very churned-up course to improve the final team position to 68th in a solid time of 7min 48secs.