Race Report – Lotto CrossCup, Diest, Feb ’23 – Junior Men

The Belgians are renowned for their challenging cross country courses, organisation and hospitality so what better race to pick for our final international race of the season than Diest in Belgium. The Diest race is a part of the CrossCup series but as it is not a gold standard event it does not attract the very best senior runners however the junior races are still of a high standard.Slate grey skies hung somberly over the undulating, dry twisty Diest course. The junior men lined up and were ready to tackle the challenging 5070m course. An interesting mixture of firm flat grass, sandy stretches, short sharp hill climbs and manmade hurdles provided a tough technical challenge for
the athletes.

The race started with the normal frantic charge, the lead runners determined to secure a clear view of the hairpin bend at the top of the course. Rowan Miel-Ingram (Radley AC, Wendy Miel-Ingram) had made an excellent start and was tucked in close behind the early Belgian leaders, Emiel de Pauw and Tristan Gevaert. No more than two strides behind came Ben Brown (Southampton AC, Peter Haynes), James Knockton (Trafford AC, Richard Goddard), Sam Hodgson (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow, Shireen Higgins) and Joe Ponter (Taunton AC, Dave Lee). By the end of the first lap the field had started to sort itself out with the stronger athletes moving to the front. As the athletes made light work of the hurdles the Belgian Mathis Lievens (31 st in the European Championships in Turin) moved to the front with the intention of impressing himself on the field. At this stage it was little more than posturing as he still had his fellow countrymen, Zjef Ceunen, Regis Thibert, brother Casper Lievens and the determined Miel-Ingram for company. The Turin man, Mathis Lieven, lifted the pace to another level on the second lap and the elastic band began to stretch and in some cases snap. The English Miel-Ingram, Joe Ponter and Sam Hodgson were hanging on along with the Belgian Simon Jeukenne as they rounded one of the many tight mends heading for the hill climb. The outcome was still far from clear as the athletes entered the final lap, it was still too close to call!

The hill at the far end of the course was always likely to be a key factor on the final lap and so it proved to be as the leading group became three. Even now the positions on the podium were not clear with three athletes still in contention. With every step bringing the athletes closer to the finish, now was not the time to put a foot wrong. It was at this point last year that Miel-Ingram turn an ankle and lost precious ground to the eventual winner, Sam Mills (4 th place in Turin and Australia bound) and 3 rd placed Jonny Livingstone (22 nd in Turin). Rowan was determined to improve on his 4th place from last year.

Lieven took the hurdles first and held a slender lead but he had no answer to Miel-Ingram’s finishing sprint which saw him finally pull away, crossing the finish line a clear winner. The memories of last year’s race were well and truly banished.

Second Englishman home was Joe Ponter (6th). Joe said afterwards that he really enjoyed the race and he was satisfied with the result. He also said the course was nothing like he had raced before but felt it would help his development as a cross country runner. Ben Brown was next to finish, two seconds behind Joe in 8th place. Ben said he was happy with the result especially as he had run 8:19 for 3000m on Wednesday at Lee Valley. Sam was a further 2 seconds behind and was quite philosophical about his performance. He made no excuses for his run but felt that he may have been a little flat after just missing out on the team for Australia. The team was completed with James in 10th place. Once again James was pleased with his run and felt the experience will make him a better athlete.

Next stop the ECCA National Cross Country Championships.
Well done all.

Keith Holt
Junior Men’s Cross Country Manager

1st Rowan Miell-Ingram (England) – 16.02
2nd Tristran Gavaert (Belgim) – 16-05
3rd Mathias Lievens (Belgium) – 16-07
4th Casper Lievens (Belgium) – 16-13
5th Simon Jeukenne (Belgium) – 16.15
6th Joe Ponter (England) – 16.16
7th Regis Thibert (Belgium) – 16.17
8th Ben Brown (England) – 16.18
9th Samuel Hodgson (England) – 16.20
10th James Knockton (England) – 16.24