Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
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SEAA Inter-Counties Cross Country Championships 10/12/11

Cassie Thorp was the revelation of the Southern Inter-Counties.          
  On Saturday 10th of December the Southern Inter-Counties Women's race was won by Cassie Thorp (23.49) of Hampshire from Alexa Joel (Essex) 23.53 and Georgia Bruinvels, of the winning Surrey team in 24.09.
In fourth place was W35 athlete, Esther Evans (Middx), the Highgate Harrier's successful International triathlete/duathlete this year.
The winning team was Surrey with 24 points to Middlesex 39 and Essex 48
   That race at Lloyd Park may not be considered, by some, to be a monumental one but if one considers it was only at the start of the year Thorp took up running as a sport, having played football for Portsmouth, Hampshire and been in England's Under 17 international football team. Since giving up football last year and joining Gerry North for coaching she won the Overton 5, Victory 5, three Portsmouth Promenade races and the Benidorm half marathon in 79.56-on the 26th of November..
   Gerry North who won the 'National' in 1962 and was a good international cross-country runner, took her under his wing.
He said " In January she started running with me and beat a couple of Moroccans in the Benidorm half recently'
   'How I noticed her was when she ran the Great South Run last year. . She was the first lady to finish in the mass start. I saw Cassie Thorp was down as unattached running 61.03. I thought 'There  is some talent there'. I made some enquiries and found someone who knew her and said 'Could you have a chat with her and ask her to come down the track one night and have a chat with me.' She came down and said ' I am getting fed up with playing football I would like to take up running seriously and then I said ' Right I am prepared to coach you and, she has been improving ever since. '
   ' I think she is a better road racer than a cross-country runner.She has not got a long stride like I had."
           Jessica Judd (Born 7/12/95) an English Schools Champion from  Essex is already well known as a top runner for her age.She ran 2;02.70 for 800 at Watford in June.
She won the Women' Under 17 race leading all the way with Hampshire taking the team title.
   Jessica Judd said " I have got a lot of school work on so will not aim for the track this year. Cross-country really but it is a good building block and I will do the 'National'
   'This Southern Inter-Counties race is very special for her.' If it was not for this event I would never got into athletics.'
   What stands out for her so far:- 'The UK Trials. I did not expect to get to the final against Jenny Meadows. To do that was amazing being so highly rated in the World for my age.'
   ' If I can try and improve on that it would be great'
   ' It is hard currently to find a balance with the 'A' Levels but Jeremy Freeman my coach and Mum & Dad have been so helpful. They respected my decision not to do the Europeans'
   The Under 13 boys has unearthed another great talent Caanan Solomon who is coached by John Stow,  who hopes to regulate his busy racing programme in the coming months. Solomon won the last two Met Leagues.
   Solomon said he felt his best race so far was coming second in the McCain Challenge and European trials on the 26th of November.
    John Stow points out about the race at Lloyd Park' The plan was to hold back and make a break with half a mile to go and that more or less happened. Because a couple of lads were with him he had to make it a double kick'
The winner Solomon of Essex was timed at 11.16 which was two seconds ahead of Thomas Kendrick of Kent. Buckinghamshire were the winning team.
   In the Under 15' race Surrey's Tom  Holden (12.50) appeared to have some strong opposition and George Duggan of Kent (13.09) was the one to challenge him for much of the race but the SLH boy came good in the last 1k
   'My Dad Guy Holden coaches me and a couple down the club help at the track."
Recently he won the London Youth Games race at Parliament Hill Fields and he is an English Schools Champion.
Who did he look up to in athletics terms " I have seen videos of Mo Farah and Seb Coe's he replied.
   Tom Hook of Norfolk was with James McMurray in the Under 17 race but behind Allen Charles Joslin by some 10 metres at one stage. He went to the lead coming down the hill and Joslin was outkicked by McMurray in the final stage.  The first five were all quality runners Hook 16.39, James McMurray of Herts the winning team (16.41), Allen Charlie Joslin (Kent) 16.42, Laurie Probert and Michael Calligary .The latter a winner in the Met League this year and last year. Another 'Class' athlete down the field in 8th place of the 71 finishers was Pete Chambers (Surrey) who is coached by Mike Fleet but has had stomach trouble this season and last cross-country season so, he did well.
Tim Ash is the coach for Tom Hook and Tom has already run a 3:53.79 for 1500 in August. I was surprised to hear Tom had, till recently, been at Langley School, near Loddon, Norfolk for four years because that was where I was for the same length of time and in the cross-country team for two years. Certainly they had nowhere near as good runners at the school when I was there in the middle to late 50's or even since then. Things certainly have radically improved.
The Southern Inter-Counties at Lloyd Park  were attended by Martin Howard of Highgate Harriers, who was officiating. He is the current President of the ECCU Association.

Alastair Aitken

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