Junior Men’s Race Report – EnergyVision Cross Cup, Diest, 11 February 2024

The final round of the EnergyVision CrossCup in Diest provided the perfect conclusion to the 2023/24 ECCA cross country program. Once again, our Belgian hosts provided us with their traditional mix of warm hospitality, excellent organisation and a challenging cross country course.

It was unseasonably mild for a cross country race in the middle of February, not that there were any complaints. As the athletes toed the line for a 3pm start, a weak winter’s sun appeared through the clouds bringing the many twists, turns, ups and downs of the course into clear focus. Diest had experienced high levels of rainfall in recent days thus turning what is normally a fast course into an extremely muddy, technical challenge. The junior men lined up and were ready to tackle the challenging 5070m course. Which consisted of 3 laps of the larger loop and one lap of the short loop. An interesting mixture of soft sucking mud, sandy stretches, short sharp hill climbs and manmade hurdles provided as tough a challenge for the four Englishmen.

The race started with the normal frantic charge with the lead runners determined to secure a clear view of the hairpin bend at the top of the starting straight (now known as a feature). First to show was the long striding Belgium, Simon Jeukenne (no 1053) accompanied by fellow countrymen Dann Lievens (1059) and Jules Vansteenkiste (1085). Paying close attention was the fast-improving Quinn Miel-Ingram (6484) and England debutant, Mark Ruby (6489). Fellow Englishman Jake Stevens (6490) and birthday boy William Rabjohns (6487) had chosen to make a more conservative start and were a little way back in the pack. By the end of the first lap Juekenne had established an early lead over the chasing Ruby and the Belgium, Lievens. At this stage Miel-Ingram was a further 20m back in 4th place; Stevens and Rabjohn had moved through and were challenging for 5th and 6th places with South of England runner, Henry Yelling (6494). There were significant changes on lap two, Juekeene had increased his lead over 2nd place Quinn Miel- Ingram to over 30m, Ruby had started to tire and had been caught and passed by Miel- Ingram (perhaps last week’s tough BUCS 10km cross country was still in his legs) and the chasing group now consisted of Lievens, Yelling, Stevens, Rabjohns and Pickering (6486). The twisty nature of the course and the mixture of sand and thick mud made the going very hard and by lap three any over enthusiasm at the start was now coming back to bite. Nothing had changed as far as the top two were concerned who at this stage both held comfortable leads over the chasing bunch. The two questions that came to mind as the athletes entered the final stages of the race were, could Miel-Ingram catch the Belgium Juekenne and which athlete from the chasing group of 5 would claim the third spot on the podium. Unbeknown to most of us watching this intriguing battle, the Belgium, Simon Jeukenne had finished 7th in the European Championships in Brussels. Further back Jake Stevens was working his way through and was looking like his more conservative start was going to pay dividends and enable him to get onto the podium, however as the athletes tackled the hill section for the final time, it proved significant. Now was not the time to put a foot wrong as they entered the finish arena. The athletes were well spread out with the main places looking nailed on. Juekenne made light work of the final hurdles and ran on comfortably to secure the win. A great improvement on his 5th place from last year. Miel-Ingram maintained his strong running to claim an excellent and clear 2nd place. The third podium place was taken by the strong finishing Rabjohns on his 18th birthday. European Championships athlete, Lievens won his battle with Stevens to secure 4 th with Englishman taking an excellent 5th. South of England athletes Pickering followed by Yelling took 6th and 7th places just ahead of the tiring Ruby in 8th. Another excellent team effort. Well done England.

Next stop the ECCA National Cross Country Championships.

Keith Holt
Junior Men’s Cross Country Manager


1 st – Simon Jeukenne (no 153) – Belgium – 16:21
2 nd – Quinn Miel-Ingram (no 6484) – England – 16:30
3 rd – William Rabjohns (no 6487) – England – 16:45
4 th – Dann Lievens (no 1059) – Belgium – 16:53
5 th – Jake Stevens (no 6490) – England – 16:54
6 th – Matthew Pickering (no 6486) – South of England – 16:55
7 th – Henry Yelling (no 6494) – South of England – 16:57
8 th – Mark Ruby (no 6489) – England – 17:03