ALICE Jones and Sam Smith struck gold as the young athletes from Wharfedale Harriers proved yet again that they are a force to be reckoned with at this year’s Yorkshire County Cross Country Championship.

The picturesque setting of Lightwater Valley Theme Park, inside The Ultimate rollercoaster ride, was the scene for some thrilling racing and conditions could only be described as perfect for some epic battles.

The ground was firm and relatively dry, in comparison to last year’s total quagmire of mud. The weather was fine with no wind and an ambient temperature of about 8°C.

Again, by comparison to last year’s freezing temperatures and driving rain, the weather was variously described as “tropical.”

In the under-13 girls’ race, Wharfedale’s Jones gained herself a county title and gold medal to accompany it.

However, in contrast to previous races this season, she didn’t have it all her own way. From the starter’s gun it was clear that the battle was on for first place.

Alice had to run hard, all the way, against stiff competition from Hallamshire Harriers’ Ruby Simpson. Alice only really showed her a clean pair of heels on the home straight where she kicked a sprint finish to steal victory by four seconds.

The under-13 boys’ race was also a nail-biter from start to finish. For the first half the battle was on between Wharfedale’s Sam Smith, Bingley Harriers’ Alex Flaherty and Hallamshire’s Jed Darley.

However, during the uphill section in the second half of the race Smith and Flaherty pulled away but Smith had the edge and opened up his lead to finish five seconds, to claim the county title and gold medal.

Both Sam and Alice will now be selected to represent Yorkshire at the Inter Counties race at Loughborough in March.

In the men’s race, Wharfedale’s James Hall managed a respectable fifth place from a field of 287, meaning he will also be selected to represent Yorkshire in March.

The Wharfedale men’s team, comprising some fell running legends included James Hall, Lee Athersmith, Ted Mason, Sam Watson, Christian Holmes and Rob Furness, finished fourth from 31 teams, many representing much larger clubs