World junior fell racing champion Victoria Wilkinson headed another superb week for Craven's leading teenage athletes in high quality events, writes Roger Ingham.

Representing Great Britain's Under 23 team in the International Athletics Federation's World Cross-Country Challenge Series in Northern Ireland near Belfast on Saturday the 19-year-old Hebden girl - who had been very controversially omitted from Great Britain's Under 20 team for the recent European Championships - left those selectors with egg on their faces as she not only stormed to a brilliant victory in the Under 23 race but also quite astonishingly finished in the top ten of the star-studded Senior race in which the Under 23 event was incorporated.

Out of 50 athletes from all over the world including many full-time professionals Bingley Harrier Wilkinson finished 10th after 5,000 metres of testing but predominantly flat going. She clocked 18 minutes 54 seconds, less than a minute adrift of the winner, Romania's Olympic Games finalist Marianna Chirila, who had a time of 17.59 and finished inches ahead of Kenya's Susan Chepkemei and Great Britain's Olympic Games fourth placer Paula Radcliffe.

And Wilkinson also beat some illustrious competitors including last year's London Marathon winner Joyce Chepchumba, of Kenya, who outsprinted Liz McColgan in that event, and last year's Chicago Marathon winner Marianne Sutton.

Elsewhere in representative cross-country competition there were fine efforts too by Sarah Dugdale and Victoria Rusius, who both respresented the North of England in the United Kingdom Inter-Regional Championships at Wakefield.

This event took place only a day after the Harrogate-Craven Schools Championships in which both Dugdale and Rusius were winners. A race the previous day was not the right preparation for an event of such a high standard but both local girls helped the North to win team medals.

Seventeen-year-old Dugdale, of Skipton and District Athletics Club, and one of the youngest in the race, was 11th out of 50 in the Under 20 women's race - won by the Midlands' leading runner, Louise Thompson, of Northampton - and she was second scorer for the North, who won team silver behind the Midlands, beating Susan Partridge, of Scotland, and Amanda Pritchard, of Wales, who had beaten her in her most recent schools' international.

And Rusius was a team gold medal winner as the North won in the Under 15 girls' race, finishing 14th out of 50 and being one of the North's scoring five in the event, won by the Midlands' Kirsty Waterson, of Ipswich.

The Harrogate-Craven Schools Championships clashed with the third event of the four series West Yorkshire League which meant that all of the Skipton and District AC league-registered athletes were competing in or assisting with the championships.

So Charlotte Sanderson travelled down from Durham University to ensure that at least one Skipton runner was at the West Yorkshire event at Keighley. And she carried the Skipton colours in typically spirited style, finishing runner-up and being beaten only in the last couple of strides by fellow Yorkshire representative Liz Canwell, of Leeds City, in the Under 20 women's race.

The same weekend also saw the North of England Indoor Athletics Championships at Sheffield where Oliver Brewer, of Threshfield, another Harrogate-Craven Schools cross-country champion, reached the 60 metres hurdles final and splendidly won the silver medal behind Scunthorpe's David Hughes.

After a year of outstanding success with Skipton and District AC which included him winning the British Junior Fell Racing title and a North of England Championships cross-country medal, Brewer has now moved to Bingley Harriers to pursue his more specialist track and field ambitions and all at the Skipton club wish him every success.


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