Suffolk's Lewis Sullivan wins South of England title
PUBLISHED: 11:41 28 January 2020 | UPDATED: 11:41 28 January 2020
The talented Lewis Sullivan tweaked his normal race tactics to take a sweet victory at the annual South of England Cross Country Championships, held at Parliament Hills Fields, on Hampstead Heath in North-West London on Saturday.
Suffolk star Sullivan is so used to hitting the front from the very start, usually opening up a gap over his rivals within a few seconds of hearing the gun.
But the 15-year-old Bury St Edmunds athlete curbed his pure front-running instincts, for a few minutes at least, until after conquering the initial tough climb up the first hill of this traditionally brutal course.
Sullivan, a member of Saint Edmund Pacers, benefited from reining in his usual super-quick start to ultimately take a comfortable victory in the under-15 boys' race.
The Sybil Andrews Academy student covered the 4.5K distance, across extremely boggy terrain -conditions were even worse than usual on this famous course - in a winning time of 14mins 24secs.
Sullivan finished six seconds ahead of runner-up Ethan Scott (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow), while Suffolk had the distinction of filling two of the three podium places, thanks to Ben Peck's excellent run in third spot.
Brandon-based Peck, a member of Thetford AC and a pupil at Mildenhall College Academy, clocked 14:33 in third to take the bronze medal, with older brother James Peck also impressing with 15:08 in 13th spot.
Also featuring highly in this under-15 race was Henry Dover, of Colchester & Tendring AC, who claimed sixth spot in 14:55.
"It was very tough, as always at Parliament Hill. There was even more mud than usual, having run the course a few times in the past. It was unbelievably boggy," said newly-crowned Sullivan.
"It felt like you were sinking in the mud, which was horrid, but it was all worth it because the race went like I had hoped. It was a good day.
"In previous years I had run hard up the first hill, and taken a lot out of my legs, so this time I sat back a little.
"I think I was in fifth, at the top of the first hill, and then started to overtake people after the second hill. I picked people off, so I ran it differently to previous years.
"I then managed to break away for the rest of the race. It was a great feeling to win, because I had not won this race before, at what is really the home of cross country," added Sullivan, who was sixth in the same age group event last year.
Coached by Martyn Brophy at the Pacers, Sullivan has had a fantastic last few seasons, winning the prestigious English Schools title (at Leeds) and the Home Countries Schools International race (in Dublin) during 2019.
This weekend, he will be in action at the Anglian Schools Championships in Boston, Lincolnshire - he successfully defended his under-15 title at this event last year, when it was held at Northampton.
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Ben Peck, a fantastic third on Saturday, trains with Sullivan in Brophy's Pacers' training group once a week, on the West Suffolk track. Peck, a year younger, had won the South of England under-13 title at the same venue last year, so to finish third at the bottom end of his new age group is a fine achievement.
Elsewhere, there was a fantastic run from Suffolk athlete Verity Valentine, who finished seventh in the under-13 girls' race.
Another member of the Bury-based Pacers, Valentine was 96th in her first appearance in this competition last year, running against older girls in this category, so Saturday's result shows just how much she has improved.
Valentine, like Sullivan, was crowned county champion at the Suffolk Championships at Culford School earlier in the month.
Another Pacer to shine at Parliament Hill was Tom Henson, who powered home in 14th spot in the under-17 men's race, with club-mate Will Lowden well up in 18th.
In the under-13 boys' race, Sam Plummer, of Colchester & Tendring, caught the eye with an excellent fourth place, just two seconds adrift of a top-three berth. Ipswich Harriers' Liam Davison was 16th in the same event.
Suffolk and North-Essex results from the South of England Cross Country Championships, held at Parliament Hill Fields in North-West London:
Under-13 boys: 4 S Plummer (CATS) 11:46; 16 L Davison (IH) 12:11; 41 J Trangmar (WS) 12:37; 79 S Tilley (IJ) 12:58; 102 A Taylor (WS) 13:09; 134 S Melero (WS)13:29; 136 M Jeffery (WS) 13:30; 163 S Blackwell (SEP) 13:49; 165 A Jeffery (WS) 14:05; 188 M Uttley (WS) 14:05.
Under-13 girls: 7 V Valentine (SEP) 12:49; 59 P Harper-Davies (WS) 14:01; 74 T Clancy (WS) 14:09; 171 J O'Brien (SEP) 15:15; 210 I Moore (SEP) 15:53.
Under-15 boys: 1 L Sullivan (SEP) 14:24; 3 B Peck (TH) 14:33; 6 H Dover (CATS) 14:55; 13 J Peck (TH) 15:08; 62 J Davison (IH) 15:57; 64 M Berry (SEP) 15:57; 73 R Bourne (SEP) 16:07; 89 B Phillips (Haverhill) 16:14; 114 L Wallace (SEP) 16:37; 135 T Ashley (IJ) 16:50; 180 D Marsh (SEP) 17:25; 188 R Grady (IH) 17:36; 204 M Fisher (IH) 17:45; 211 A Henington (CATS) 17:51; 233 A Richardson (SEP) 18:06; 247 H Smith (BBD) 18:20; 297 J Clarke (WS) 19:39; 312 E Peck (TH) 20:49.
Under-15 girls: 95 L Battell (WS) 19:42; 125 M Lansdown (IJ) 20:04; 170 F Aston (IH) 20:48; 176 E Marshall (WS) 21:01; 185 S Allen (WS) 21:12; 228 F De'Ath (SEP) 22:02; 241 S Gathorne-Hardy (SEP) 22:17; 246 A Bradnam (SEP) 22:28; 259 A Henson (SEP) 22:45; 293 F Keighley (SEP) 24:50; 302 S Allen (SEP) 26:08.
Under-17 men: 14 T Henson (SEP) 23:10; 18 W Lowden (SEP) 23:25; 32 A Cahill (CATS) 23:52; 169 J Webb (SEP) 27:39; 174 J Denny (SEP) 28:05; 190 C Boldock (SEP) 29:38.
Under-17 women: 86 R Morley (WS) 23:28; 89 H Fisher (IH) 23:34; 120 C Cavill (WS) 25:43; 137 J Bilner (IJ) 27:52; 150 E Genner (SEP) 30:50; 153 R Beare (SEP) 31:20; 154 I Free (SEP) 31:21; 156 M Lewis (SEP) 33:40.
Under-20 men: 44 H Allcock (BBD) 28:55; 74 S Quercia-Smale (SEP) 30:41; 113 C Bilner (IJ) 37:35.
Under-20 women: 71 K Heeks (SS) 41:26.
Senior men: 98 R Osman (CH) 54:02; 175 C Sellens (CH) 56:14; 194 K Swan (Braintree) 56:34; 195 A Graves (TRR) 56:34; 228 C Humphries (CH) 57:16; 243 S Williams (SS) 57:41; 271 D Widdowson (CH) 58:32; 292 P Wain (IJ) 58:58; 328 A Jobling (CH) 59:42; 407 J Nears (CH) 61:12; 415 P Rodgers (CH) 61:22; 440 M Smith (CH) 61:50; 499 I Filchev (HRR) 62:59; 540 G Scanlan (CH) 64:05; 548 C Ridley (CH) 64:05; 606 J Waggott (IJ) 65:13; 672 S May (HRR) 66:35; 742 G Ripton (HRR) 68:11; 796 M Plummer (CATS) 69:47; 997 B Gibbons (TRR) 77:22; 1003 J Aldridge (IJ) 77:38; 1070 I Rhodes (TRR) 80:56.
Senior women: 165 D Harrington (TRR) 26:29; 213 R Roughan (HRR) 38:05; 237 C Anthony (WS) 38:46; 278 V Knight (TRR) 39:46; 417 K Judge (HRR) 43:13; 463 E Healy (HRR) 44:39; 497 W Carter (HRR) 45:50; 511 A Bambridge (HRR) 46:05; 514 L Rodbourn (HRR) 46:08; 604 L Willis (TRR) 50:31; 615 T Carder (HRR) 51:42; 634 L Hutley (HRR) 53:28; 642 V Metson (HRR) 54:06.
KEY: WS - West Suffolk AC; IH - Ipswich Harriers; SEP - Saint Edmund Pacers; BBD - Bungay Black Dog; IJ - Ipswich JAFFA; TH - Thetford AC; CATS - Colchester & Tendring; CH - Colchester Harriers; HRR - Halstead Road Runners; TRR - Tiptree Road Runners; SS - Stowmarket Striders.