Athletics News

James Kingston and Jess Gibbon win big in Beckenham – area cross-country champs round-up

James Kingston and Jess Gibbon win big in Beckenham – area cross-country champs round-up

Good numbers and quality in Beckenham as internationals out in force in Southern event plus Midlands in Leamington and Northerns in Sedgefield

SOUTH OF ENGLAND CHAMPIONSHIPS, Beckenham Place Park, January 27

With a few adjustments to the course such as making the senior men’s 15km two bigger laps instead of three to cut out almost lapping, this proved the most successful of the championships held in Beckenham on the edge of South London and Kent.

Clubs who previously have missed championships put on by the South of England were back in the fold and over 2200 finishers took part in the 10 races compared to the North’s 1400 and Midlands’ 900.

The quality was high too with two English National champions leading home the senior races and plenty of promising youngsters who will be in the thick of a medal battle next month at Weston Park near Telford.

Mike Boucher of Aldershot did the lion’s share of ensuring the improvement in tweaking it more to an athlete friendly course.

There are still adjustments maybe needed to make it more spectator-friendly with all bar the senior men disappearing from sight early on each lap then emerging from the woods close to the finish  to go up the final hill but a championships with big numbers like this can’t use a lap like used by Eamonn Martin at the previous week’s London International. Martin was an interested spectator here.

Men’s start (Mark Easton)

Senior men

James Kingston has only just turned 22 years of age but he is building up a highly successful championship record.

James Kingston (Cliff Hide)

A member of Britain’s winning European under-23 team in Brussels, the reigning English National champion retained his South of England title by a big margin.

After holding back on the initial two lap course around the former public golf course, he eventually stretched out to win by well over 100 metres.

“I was as comfortable as I could be running 15km cross-country,” he said. He now moves on to retaining his National title next march and he said he doesn’t plan to race until then and go back into a hard block of training

Second was also the same as in 2023 as Alex Lepretre proved the best of the rest as he led Highgate to a very clear victory.

Leaders after two miles (Steve Smythe)

Essex champion Callum Charleston, son of 1986 Commonwealth Games steeplechase finalist Richard, luckily did not repeat his 2023 position as he advanced from 48th last year.

Another greatly improved athlete Roger Poolman…

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