THE John H Collins Gwent Cross Country League, one of the most popular grassroots cross-country leagues in the UK, returned to West Wales for the sixth time on Saturday, December 3.
More than 1,000 runners of all abilities descended on Pembrey Country Park near Llanelli and races featured the under 11 athletes right up to the seniors and masters’ categories.
Local club, Carmarthen & District Harriers Athletics Club hosted the third of five fixtures this season. The club were grateful for the support offered by Carmarthenshire County Council in hosting the event in their park.
The park, situated between Burry Port and Kidwelly, has become used to hosting big running events by now. Sporting events staged here over recent years have included the Welsh Athletics Cross Country Championships, Welsh Athletics Road Relays Championships, John H Collins Gwent Cross Country League, SIAB Schools U17 Cross Country International, Carmarthenshire Primary Schools Cross Country Championships and the Llanelli Secondary Schools Area Cross Country.
The league season began back in October when Llandaff Fields in Cardiff played host to the first British Athletics Cross Challenge Series as well as the John H Collins Gwent Cross Country.
This was followed by the second meeting in South West England at Blaise Castle in Bristol three weeks ago.
Competitors, coaches, team managers, officials and spectators from more than 40 clubs travelled to the Carmarthenshire park from across South Wales and the South West of England.
On a demanding course that showcased the county’s park and the surrounding areas, the competitors aged 9 to 80 tackled fast grass sections, hills, sand dunes, woods and paths. Participants had the opportunity to take in some breath-taking views around the route overlooking the coastal scenery of Carmarthen Bay and the Gower.
In addition to runners scoring points for their clubs, Pembrey also hosted the West Wales Cross Country Championships 2022 where regional medals were presented to the top three athletes from the region to finish in the junior, senior and master age groups.
The action got underway on Saturday morning with the novice age groups running a total distance of 1,600m. The ten-race programme was followed by the under 13, under 15 and under 17 and 20 races (girls and boys) completing either small, medium or large laps.
In the latter part of the afternoon, the Senior & Master Women and Men ran their respective distances of 7,300m and 9,800m. There were big fields once again and plenty of support out on the course.
Among the senior winners were Lauren Cooper (Parc Bryn Bach) and Ciaran Lewis (Les Croupiers).
The 2022/2023 John H Collins Gwent Cross Country League will visit Margam Park in Port Talbot in the New Year on Saturday, February 11, 2023, before the season concludes at Pontypool Park on Saturday, March 4.