Fantastic Finn rises to latest challenge
STICKER'S Finn Birnie produced a champion's performance over a classic old-fashioned course in the South West Cross Country Championships.
The new venue around the grounds of the National Trust property at Killerton Court, just north of Exeter, provided a searching test for the competitors with the recent heavy rain ensuring severely muddy conditions.
But that didn't stop 13-year-old Newquay & Par runner adding the U13 boys' crown to his success in the English Schools' Cup earlier this season and continue his outstanding winter.
Finn, who lives at Sticker, said: "That was probably the toughest courses I have ever run on.
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"The hills were particularly hard and it was difficult to keep on your feet in the mud."
Finn seemed to manage better than most as he skated across the cloying surface to finish 21 seconds clear of Wiltshire's Hayden Bailey and North Devon's Joel Kirby.
Coach John Knowles said: "Finn has really upped his game this winter and that was another terrific performance but he is still young and has a lot to learn."
Finn was chased home by a swathe of Cornwall vests with Newquay & Par clubmate James Greenwood fourth, the Cornwall AC pair of Thomas Fisher and Harrier Mier fifth and seventh respectively and then Archie Vingoe of Mounts Bay Harriers 11th.
They easily wrapped up the county team title scoring 17 points to finish well ahead of Devon (40), while in the club competition Newquay & Par just edged out Cornwall AC 51 points to 65.
Individually there were two other medals for county athletes in the packed ten-race programme.
Cornwall AC's Yoyo Barnsley, who trains with Finn and is also a student at Truro School, had already won the county title before Christmas and finished a creditable 20th in the Liverpool Cross Challenge but this bronze medal in a strong under 15 girls' race must rank alongside that.
Yoyo couldn't hold onto the strong North Somerset pair of Ellie Walllace and Alice Davies but she never gave up the chase and despite running on her own for a long period did well to pick up the bronze medal.
Knowles said: "Yoyo had to work really hard for that medal and I am delighted for her."
The other medal was also a bronze and went to a very delighted Dan Nash.
Two years ago the 19-year-old from the village of Minions near Liskeard, had a brilliant run to finish third but by his own admission had a disappointing 2013 and dropped to 19th in the same event.
His bronze – and he also finished top under 20 man – was a welcome return to form for Nash, who is currently studying physiology at Cardiff University.
"That is my best race for a long time and I am very pleased to come third," said Nash. "I am looking forward to the rest of the season now."
Mounts Bay Harrier Pete Le Grice, who normally focuses on the road, had arguably his best ever run on the country to finish sixth and second county scorer with Launceston Road Runners' Dan Rodgers just outside the top ten in 11th to better his 17th twelve months ago.
Cornwall AC's Callum Jones was 17th and finished fifth in the under 20 men's age group.
More race details, see page 81.