THURROCK Harriers’ Gemma Holloway led her Essex team to gold medals at the UK Intercounties Cross-Country Championships.
The 16-year-old Palmer’s College student finished a superb eighth place in the under-17 women’s race at Cofton Park, Birmingham.
And with team-mates Jess Burgess (16th), Lydia Hallam (18th) and Katie Solis (19th) all running fantastically to finish inside the top 20, Essex were dominant winners.
It made up for 12 months ago when Holloway and her Essex team thought they had won gold, only to miss out by just two points.
This time though they were on the top step of the podium and with Holloway delighted by her own form after coming back from illness, it was a good day all round for the young Harrier.
“I was happy with how it went,” said Holloway. “I thought we had done enough to get the gold medal last year and I knew we had a chance of winning it this time round, I think all the girls did.
“We were all saying beforehand that we could do this.
“When I was racing I was thinking more about my own race, but it was great to find out we had won.”
Isobel Ives (Basildon AC) was the sixth Essex scorer in 92nd place.
Eight seemed to be the magic number for our leading athletes as, along with Holloway, Gemma Kersey and Adam Hickey both finished in that position.
Track specialist Kersey had the cross-country run of her life to be so high up in the senior women’s race while her training partner Hickey was disappointed with his run in the senior men’s race. Heavy legs meant Hickey was not able to go with the leaders when the hammer went down with the Southend AC athlete admitting a long winter season had taken its toll.
His Southend pal David Gibbon had a great run, though, to finish second Essex scorer in 63rd spot, outsprinting team-mate David Fewell (Chelmsford AC).
Three Southenders were in action in the under-20 men’s race with Oliver Kyriakides the second Essex scorer in 67th spot followed by Rob Frith (107th) and Ashley Capel (119th). Thurrock Harriers’ Alec Finch was 99th.
Jessica Judd’s return in the under-20 women’s race gave Essex a big boost as she finished sixth and behind her Basildon AC duo Kaylee Dodd and Emily Bullis had strong runs to finish in 41st and 49th.
Southend AC’s Sarah Imbush also had a great run to be the fourth Essex scorer in 67th, while Emma Houchell (73rd), Eleanor Johnson (80th), Hayley Lamkin (85th) and Jess Swain (87th) were all in the Essex squad.
Essex’s one individual gold of the day came from Colchester Harriers’ Jordan Rowe in the under-17 men’s race with Chelmsford AC's Callum Charleston also running superbly for 12th. That pair were well supported by four south Essex athletes: Adam Houchell (97th), George Elliott (108th), Adam Jordan (120th) and Christian Gray (175th).
Essex’s under-15 girls team finished in an encouraging eighth place overall, given all of their four scorers – which included Basildon AC’s Niamh Smith who had a great run to finish 105th and fourth scorer – were in the bottom year of the age group.
Southend High School for Girls Katie Faint (114th) and Benfleet RC’s Sinead Clark (144th) also ran strongly as bottom years in the age group.
Basildon AC’s Gus Withers is another in the bottom year of his age group who had an impressive run.
Withers was third Essex scorer in the under-15 boys race in 96th place.
Thurrock Harriers’ Jody Meredith was 138th and Basildon’s Max Jones 179th.
East Essex Tri’s Leon Wheeler had a cracking run to be third Essex scorer in the under-13 boys race while Thurrock Harriers’ duo Jack Exley and Reece Scott were 139th and 176th.
Southend AC’s Joanna Rimmington was the third Essex athlete home in the under-13 girls race in 94th spot with her team-mate Georgia Goble in 246th position, just behind Thurrock Harriers’ Hayley Instance (232nd).