James gets England call

ATHLETICS: ST ALBANS Athletics Club’s James McMurray has been selected to fly out on Friday to take part in the Home Countries international Cross Country Championship in County Antrim in Ireland wearing the English red rose on his vest.

Selection was dependent on his performance at the English Schools Cross Country Championships in Nottingham on Saturday where top youngsters converge for the conclusion of the individual schools cross country calendar. More than 2000 young athletes from 45 counties compete in the beautiful setting of Wollaton Park all proudly wearing their county colours which they have all worked hard to earn.

Proceedings were commenced with the intermediate girls’ race run over 4.1km over reasonably flat grassland. St Albans AC were represented by Megan Steer who despite running the whole race with one shoe after another athlete had accidently stepped on the back at the start , courageously continued to finish the race strongly. The following race was the junior boys with young Jack Gentle taking on boys a year older than him. He finished a very healthy 43rd out of 331 competitors and is now determined to aim for the top next year in this schools event. Abbie West and Rebecca Pritchard both from Sir John Lawes represented Hertfordshire in the junior and senior girls’ races respectively and finished well up in the top half.

It was the fourth race that all concerned eagerly waited for as James, one of the founder members of the club’s middle distance squad, started as the favourite for not only a win but also England selection. James controlled the race to take victory in a time of 17.40 and sealed a victory.

This weekend’s race was in glorious sunshine and a far cry from the rain and mud a few weeks previously when the athletes travelled up to Alton Towers for the National Cross Country Championships. St Albans fielded several teams in various age groups to compete in arguably one of the hardest courses in recent history and their achievements were definitely something all the squad should feel proud of.

The televised inter-county championships in Birmingham was also this month with James McMurray taking fifth place a year young in the U17s and Jack Gentle sixth place in the U13s.

The STAGS junior girls team is also in action at the English schools Cup final in Alnwick before the athletes’ attention turns to the track and field season starting in April.