WHARFEDALE Harriers are celebrating after two of their talented young athletes won medals at the Northern Area Cross Country Championship.
Alice Jones continued her amazing run of success by taking gold in the under-13 girls race while Alex Thompson won bronze in the boys event in the same age group.
Both overcame the strength-sapping mud in the spectacular grounds of Knowsley Safari Park.
Jones, from Lothersdale, had to overcome stiff competition in her race. From the moment the starter’s gun fired she had to run her hardest to be part of the leading pack, in the gruelling uphill start.
The undulating course obviously suited the Skipton Girls High School student as she soon led the race as it wound its way round the course, taking in views of Knowsley Hall and gardens, although she had others hot on her heels for most of the way.
Only when the final hill was climbed, was it clear that Alice would secure a good win, becoming the 2017 Northern champion in 11min 52sec, eight seconds ahead of Chester-le-Street’s Emily Chong.
Skyrac’s Eve Jones was a further two seconds back in third while Lilli Carr of Keighley & Craven finished fourth out of 223 runners.
The mud was even deeper when Thompson, who attends Ermysted's Grammar School, set off in the under-13 boys race.
He got off to an excellent start and charged up the first hill at the head of the front pack.
In addition to being sticky, the downhill sections were now very slippery and even the longest spikes came adrift, further draining the athletes of their running power.
However, Thompson maintained his lead until halfway point where the course turned and started back uphill.
At this point Kendal’s Fraser Sproul, the eventual winner in 11:00, edged in front and started to pull away from the chasing pack.
Sadly for Thompson, he was again overtaken on the final stretch by Salford Harriers’ Sam Hopkins, meaning he had to settle for bronze.
Wharfedale's Sam Smith finished in sixth place, just behind Alex Flaherty of Bingley Harriers in fifth from a field of 213 boys.
Wharfedale's Eibhlis Price 189th and Tilly Labbett 211th battled away in the under 13 girls race.
Labbett, competing for the first time in such a large event, came over the finish line with one shoe in her hand having lost it part way round the course but had continued to run without it.
Hamish Wills was 69th in the boys race in the same age group.
In the under-15 races, Emily Jones was 41st for the girls while Logan Hargreaves-Madhas was 76th and Jack Muir 99th in the boys event.