ATHLETES from this corner of Yorkshire built on their successes at the Yorkshire Cross Country Championships earlier in January to produce some excellent results in the much larger North of England Cross Country Championships held at the weekend.

Wharfedale Harriers under-15 boy Alex Thompson and former Bingley Harriers’ senior man, Emile Cairess, added to their successes at the Yorkshire Championships to again win gold medals.

Bingley Harriers’ under-13 girl Martha Jackson improved on her silver medal performance at the Yorkshire Championship to win gold.

The races were staged at Pontefract race course, which last hosted the event in 2015.

Each route varied in length, according to age, but all took in most parts of this undulating and sometimes tussocky terrain.

Unlike in 2015 where conditions were at best boggy and at worst, described as a quagmire; the dry summer and winter so far ensured that mud was rare and the going could be described as firm.

An ambient temperature of between six and nine degrees with a light breeze allowed for some very fast running and tough competition between athletes.

The first medal of the day came in the under-13 girls’ race where Jackson got off to a good start and remained in the front pack, jostling all the way with some fine young athletes from across the North of England including Yorkshire champion Imogen Wolff.

At the final approaches she made her move and took off, never looked back, and won in 10.39, seven seconds in front of her nearest rival.

Clubmate Rebecca Flaherty finished fourth (10.51) and Wharfedale Harriers’ Amelie Lane came 11th in 11 minutes.

In the under-15 boys’ race, Thompson positioned himself well and ran with the front pack of five runners including Yorkshire rival Kyle Rabjohn and long-standing Cumbrian rival Fraser Sproul.

He made his move to lead at the start of the hair pin section of the course, where he had the wind at his back and felt able to make his break away from the pack.

The long uphill grind to the finish did not seem to hinder him as he powered up it and took gold in 12.22, a full 10 seconds ahead of Rabjohn.

Wharfedale clubmate Sam Smith came home in 12th place (13.12).

The senior men’s race had 705 starters, so the battle to win was never going to be easy.

However, Cairess, who won the under-20 men’s race in 2018, took it all in his stride and ran a fast race to win in 38.05, nine seconds ahead of the second placed athlete. Local fell running star, Ilkley Harriers’ Jack Wood, proved his versatility to finish a very respectable 14th (39.47) in this strong field.

Under-15 girls Yorkshire champion Alice Jones ran a very hard race to be overtaken on the long haul to the finish to come fifth (14.12) with Keighley and Craven’s Lilli Carr finishing 12th (14.30).

In the under-17 girls race, Ilkley Harriers’ Bethan Morley came a respectable ninth (18.34) and Bingley’s Emily Field was 11th (18.41).

In the under-17 boys race, Ilkley’s Dominic Coy finished seventh (19.56).

The under-20 ladies race saw Ilkley’s Jemima Elgood finish fifth (20.17) while in the under-20 men’s race, Ilkley’s Euan Brennan took silver (25.51), Keighley and Craven's Joe Hudson was fifth (26.19) and Ilkley’s Cameron Reilly finished 12th (26.53).