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Havering’s O’Neill is so close to a podium place at South of England Championships

PUBLISHED: 13:30 02 February 2018 | UPDATED: 08:00 03 February 2018

Havering's Kate O'Neill and Molly Sweetman at the South of England Cross-Country Championships (pic Tracy O'Neill)

Havering's Kate O'Neill and Molly Sweetman at the South of England Cross-Country Championships (pic Tracy O'Neill)

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Havering’s Kate O’Neill just missed out on a podium place at the South of England Cross-Country Championships in Brighton at the weekend.

Cold, wet and muddy conditions were described by team manager Peter Warner as ‘a dangerous skating rink’ but O’Neill defied a sore throat and cold to finish fourth in the under-17 girls’ race, not far behind the silver medalist.

Molly Sweetman had her best result at the event, finishing eighth, as the resting Jessica Mitchell and injured Sophie Rand missed out for a Havering squad, that would have surely been gold medal contenders otherwise.

Matthew Blacklock made the top 10 in the under-13 boys’ race, as Shane Hart (143rd), Alex Kerr (212th) and Ryan McCarthy (249th) made up the 27th-placed team.

The under-13 girls combined well for a seventh place team finish, with Stephanie Okoro a fine 14th, as Natalie Sewell also made the top 20 and Tilly Canty (65th) and Holly Bradley (139th) completed the scoring quartet.

The senior men’s race was met with strong wind and driving rain that turned the nine-mile course into a lottery with mud over hard chalk causing many athletes and spectators to fall.

Grant Twist took all this in his stride in a superb run, finishing in a great 18th place, but Rob Warner was not so lucky, as one of the many fallers, only to be picked up by one of the runners he was lapping to go on to finish in a bloodied 83rd place.

Paul Grange battled well to finish 211th, as John Whitehead (265th) and Barry Smith (270th) placed the team 22nd.

Gary Atkins also fell but got up to finish in 447th while Steve Walker found the last lap hard and finished 508th as Richard Rowe (605th) finished with more than a hundred behind him.

The senior women placed 18th thanks to strong runs from Vicky Smith (65th) and Ginte Bailey (71st), with Bella Woods (130th) and Clare Davies (169th) in the top half of the 350 finishers.

James Stewart (50th) was the club’s only under-20 male finisher, as Ben Davis found two top races in under a week too much, after making his England debut in Seville, and pulled out when in 10th place.

Luke Chester (183rd), Dominic Jarvis (188th) and Sam Bradley (189th) were short of a scoring four for the under-15 boys, with Alice Brown (128th) and Annie Grannell (183rd) the only girls.

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