THIS small corner of England’s largest county reaped some big rewards at the 2019 Yorkshire Cross Country Championship race at the weekend.

Wharfedale Harriers lead the medal haul, as two of their runners Alice Jones and Alex Thompson claimed the under-15s girls' and boys' titles.

All races were staged at Lightwater Valley Theme Park, inside “The Ultimate” rollercoaster ride, setting the scene for this thrilling set of races where conditions could only be described as perfect for some battles of epic proportions.

The ground was firm and dry, in comparison to previous years where “quagmire” was a more appropriate description.

An ambient temperature of four to six degrees and sunny spells made for perfect weather in addition to the fast conditions underfoot.

Despite the conditions, the course can only be described as “tough and undulating” making any success a hard won battle.

At 4.5km, the under-15 boys’ Yorkshire Cross Country course is as long as it gets for the age group.

So, from the start, Thompson had to run hard to remain in the front pack of four who all jostled for position as they raced around the first lap and a half of the challenging course.

However, soon into the last lap, he made his move and pulled away from the pack, taking the lead and never looking back.

Richmond and Zetland’s Kyle Rabjohn attempted a sprint finish to catch Thompson but had clearly left it too late as Thompson powered ahead to cross the finish line in 13.50, 14 seconds ahead of Rabjohn in second.

The 2017 under-13 boys Yorkshire champion, and Wharfedale Harrier, Sam Smith, finished a respectable fourth (14.08) with Bingley Harriers’ Alex Flaherty finishing seventh (14.54).

Jones ran a strong race over 3.9km to claim victory but it was no easy win, as she fought off competition from several excellent runners in her age group.

Jones saved the best till last and showed her true talent in the second half of the race as she pulled away and increased her lead as she came down the home straight to win in 14.05 mins. Meanwhile, Keighley and Craven’s Lili Carr ran a good race to finish fourth (14.29)

In the junior men’s race, Ilkley Harriers’ fell running international, Euan Brennan, ran against some already established elite runners to claim victory and the Yorkshire Cross Country title in 26.26 with Keighley and Craven’s international fell runner Joe Hudson taking bronze (26.26).

Both young men battled hard with the front pack of junior and senior men men in a fast senior race to claim their individual victories.

In addition, Ilkley Harriers’ Cameron Reilly crossed the line in fifth place (28.26) and Bingley Harriers’ Reuben Mantle ran well to finish seventh (29.25).

In the senior men’s race, which ran at the same time as the junior men but with one additional lap, former Bingley Harrier, and England representative at the 2018 European Cross Country Championships, Emile Caress took gold in 32.15.

In his now established style, he ran with the front pack until there were two laps to go and then “kicked” to pull away from the rest, including international triathlon star and Bingley Harriers’ Johnny Brownlee, who had to settle for a bronze medal (32.43).

Fell running favourite, Jack Wood transferred his skills to cross country to finish seventh (33.46)

Bingley’s Martha Jackson and Rebecca Flaherty ran hard and fast until the end to take silver (19.17) and bronze (19.18) medals respectively in the under-13 girls’ race.

Ilkley Harriers’ Bethan Morley fought hard to claim silver medal (15.47) in the under-17 girls' race with Bingley’s Emily Field chasing her all the way to finish fifth (16.18) against a strong field of established athletes.

Ilkley clubmate Dominic Coy had a strong run in the under-17 men’s race to finish fourth (20.01) with Keighley’s Louis Hudson coming seventh (20.30) in a tough race that had an ever changing order to the end.

All these local runners will now be selected to represent Yorkshire at the Intercounties Cross Country Final at Loughborough in March.