The first Manchester Cross Country League fixture of the season is particularly interesting.  It offers a guideline as to how the clubs match off against each other and how athletes are performing compared to the previous year’s races.  The race at Heaton Park was for the U13s+, with the U11s to get their chance in another four weeks time.

This year has seen most of our competitive U11 girls team from last year move up to the U13 category.  The good news is that all of those that finished in the top 20 last year are still actively involved, so we now have a full U13 girls team for the first time in a while.

Not all of our girls were able to run on this occasion.  Out of our current squad of 9, four were taking part in the John Leigh Park schools cross country that clashes with this particular feature each year and one had another school clash.  Do schools not check the XC calendar?  There are other things to do?

That left four to run, with the first three to count for the team.  First home was the increasingly impressive Aisling McHale in 5th place, only 24 seconds behind the winner and less than 10 seconds behind last year’s dominant U11 champion Jasmine Reed.  This improves on her best placing of 6th from last year.  No qualms about racing against the older girls then!  Our second girl was Esme Pearson with perhaps her best run for the club so far as she made it two Alty girls inside the top 10 with a great 10th place finish.  Our third counter was Grace Adams finishing 29th to make it three inside the top 30, also showing that she is more than capable of mixing it in this company.  This was enough for Altrincham to finish a very impressive 3rd team out of 22 completed.  Our fourth runner was Hannah Gregg who came home in 72nd.  This is the fourth year that Hannah has been getting muddy in these races.

So, the U13 girls team is clearly competitive this year.  While Sale look like they may be a bit tough to challenge, the girls weren’t far behind Salford in 2nd with a whole batch of clubs close behind us, emphasising how every position can count in this event.  It will be interesting to see how the girls do over the course of the season.

We also had two other juniors in action.  In the U13 boys Angus Morris made an impressive debut in finishing 56th.  Although we didn’t have a full team, we do have three boys registered in our squad, so we’re hopeful we will manage to complete a team in one of the events.

Our sole representative in the U15 boys was Tom Pavey who finished 42nd.

One thing noticeable about this race is the increase in numbers that participated, particularly in the U13 category.  In the U13s there were 154 finishers (82 girls, 72 boys) compared to 108 at the equivalent fixture last year.  Of course, we contributed 5 to that gap!

The next race is at Boggart Hole Clough on 11th November.  I’m confident that we’ll be able to get an U13 girls team out, though I know at least a couple are unavailable because of a clash with an important regional schools race.  Perhaps more interesting will be to see how our new crop of U11s do.  We’re very hopeful of having both girls and boys teams out and the performances so far this year in the John Leigh Park schools cross country suggest that they may be worth keeping an eye on.

Results can be found at