Middlesex Cross Country Championships – Cranford Park – 3rd January 2004

Hillingdon’s Julia Bleasdale obliterated the women’s field to continue her recent run of good form that has seen victories and record times in both the Varsity Cross Country and December’s Serpentine 5K , Gavin Collett reports. The 22-year-old Cambridge University student followed the early pace of Highgate pair Natasha Cendrowicz and Astrid Wingler on the opening lap of two, but kicked away at the start of the second lap to eventually retain her title by a massive quarter of a mile margin.

Cendrowicz just held off London Champion Wingler in the closing stages for the first time this season, as Highgate added the county team cup to their ever-expanding trophy cabinet.

Bleasdale can now look forward with some confidence to the forthcoming South of England and BUSA Championships after taking in Cardiff this weekend.

Start of the senior women’s race

Her coach Roger Williams enjoyed a double success as Michaela Hutchison transferred her track speed to the country with good effect, front running the Under 20 race in equally impressive fashion to her training partner.

The Under 20 men’s race had provided a much closer finish, with Great Britain international Shugri Omar holding off Harrow’s Michael Smart in a tense sprint finish. Whereas Omar is now too old for the CAU Inter Counties in March, the younger Smart looks to be returning to top form after a series of setbacks over the last few years.

The senior men’s race was a very tactical affair on the opening lap of three, as the pairings of Hillingdon’s Dan Dalmedo and Scott Tompsett and Highgate’s Jerome Claeys and Henry Dodwell shared the lead with reigning champion James Trapmore, with Ian Cunningham of Ealing and Highgate’s Dennis Fricks just off the pace.

The middle lap saw Brussels-born Claeys begin to launch some attacks which split the leading pack to just him and Tompsett, who surprisingly has never won this title. Trapmore and Dodwell were 100m in arrears with one lap to go, with Fricks a further 50m down but beginning an impressive charge.

Literally at the start of the final lap Claeys, a 2:20 marathoner with a dream of cracking 2:15 in Rotterdam in April to put himself forward for selection to the Belgian team for Athens, made another move. This was to prove decisive as he opened a 20m gap over Tompsett which remained constant until the closing stages, when his final surge took the Investment Banker through to an 80m winning margin, his first county title since moving to London in 1996.

Tompsett added another county silver medal to his collection, whilst Fricks pipped Shaftesbury’s Trapmore for the bronze medal with a scintillating final circuit, helping Highgate to complete a senior team double for the second successive year.